Amazon’s Footprint Could Fill the Empire State Building Five Times Over

By Zosha Millman

As the world awaits Amazon’s HQ2 decision, many pundits and pontificaters have turned their eyes to Seattle in order to better understand the footprint Amazon might have on a city. But it isn’t as simple as just looking.

Seattle has changed a lot in the years since the web’s biggest bookseller opened up shop here. In many ways it’s shaped the city Seattle has become, but not in quantifiable ways: What would Seattle housing look like without Amazon bolstering the local economy? What would South Lake Union be?

And even though Amazon has wormed its way into plenty of building nooks and crannies throughout the city, the company has been tight-lipped about exactly how much real estate they’ve taken on. Over 40,000 employees work throughout the city, but it’s hard to know exactly where they’re all punching the clock.

Commercial real estate firms in towns have pretty good guesses. And now, BuildZoom has stepped in to try to assess how much space Amazon takes up in the city – and it’s pretty astounding.

Using the BuildZoom’s National Building Permit Repository, the firm reports more than $1.9 billion in Seattle metro area building permits have been filed for Amazon-occupied office space since the company moved to South Lake Union.

That spans nearly 13.6 million square feet across the Seattle metro area, and includes 45 structures in Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Downtown Seattle and Bellevue.Since Amazon’s big move to the South Lake Union area in 2007, over $1.9 billion in building permits have been filed for Amazon-occupied office space in the Seattle metro area, which spans nearly 13.6 million feet, according to BuildZoom. Photo: BuildZoom

Photo: BuildZoom

According to the report, about $1.8 billion of that was in building permits to date, with the remaining $120 million spent on tenant improvements for leased office spaces.

BuildZoom includes a breakdown of individual blocks and chunks of the campus: The initial South Lake Union cluster of 10 buildings (first developed by Vulcan Real Estate and sold for $1.16 billion in 2012) cost about $450 million in permits. Block 19 in the Denny Triangle neighborhood cost over $650 million in permits alone.

And that’s all before new parcel development hit the scene.

All in all, it’s enough to fill the Empire State Building five times over and the Columbia Center more than eight times.

So what does that mean for HQ2? 

In short, the campus is likely to have a greater impact in a smaller metro.

“A campus of this magnitude will not be easy for any city to accommodate except for the very largest,” BuildZoom’s Chief Economist, Dr. Issi Romem, said.

“Amazon will likely build new office buildings, as it did in Seattle, but will likely also snap up significant square footage in existing office space, especially in its earlier stages of growth. Amazon will likely reduce vacancy rates, crowd out other tenants, and drive up office rents, especially in the short run. In the longer run, Amazon will expand the office supply and, more generally, help deepen the talent pool.”

Ten years from now, it may be a whole new world, just like Seattle.

Cascade Coffee Works Wants to Connect All of SLU

By Chelsea Lin

Cascade Coffee Works is now making sweet latte art in South Lake Union.

The new softly open location of Seattle Coffee Works—the “by the people, for the people” neighborhood coffee shop—is not a sellout. Yes, it’s at Amazon’s doorstep, and you’ll likely line up for a morning cup with many a blue-badged employee from the high-rise offices upstairs.

But owner Sebastian Simsch is quick to point out that Cascade Coffee Works (as this location is known)—housed in the new building that incorporates the 1927 corner brick facade of Troy Laundry, just blocks from a P-Patch and community center—is part of the historic Cascade neighborhood, which has been doing its own thing long before South Lake Union all but swallowed it up.

Now, with ongoing construction, it’s simply a neighborhood in transition. And that transition provides a blank slate for Simsch and his team, who have built three successful coffee shops around the city, each with a distinct character that caters to the surrounding ’hood’s needs. Ballard Coffee Works has a kids’ play space and lots of food options. Capitol Coffee Works has an experimental flare—particularly in the treatment of coffee as fruit—and is open later. What will the Cascade shop look like? Simsch said he wasn’t not sure yet when we spoke earlier this year.

A bigger kitchen provides some creative liberty when it comes to food (right now, they’re planning to sell Standard Bakery pastries, Sunshine breakfast tacos and house-made sandwiches for lunch); more fridge space allows for lots of cold brew coffee and happy-hour beers; immediate access to the “coffee geek” young professionals means brewing classes and weekly tastings. Shots will be poured from a custom Seattle-made Synesso MVP espresso maker.

But that’s just the beginning. Simsch says he’s open to creating whatever the neighborhood wants. As he’s worked to bridge the gap between the coffee pickers who “live on $1 a day” and the $4 latte drinkers here in Seattle, he’s hoping this new location, which has its grand opening November 8, will act as an equalizer—where the neighborhood’s homeless population, tech employees and residential families can meet eye to eye over a cup of directly sourced, environmentally responsible coffee.

Will his plan work? “We’ll see,” Simsch says.

Cascade Coffee Works
1130 Thomas St.; 206.340.8867

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Pilot Water Taxi Project Connects Lakes Union & Washington

By Nat Levy

Real estate company Seco Development plans to to fund a water taxi pilot project to ferry passengers across Lake Washington, between Seattle’s tech-heavy South Lake Union neighborhood and the developer’s massive office project in the city of Renton, Wash., GeekWire has learned.

Seco is taking the lead in planning as well as funding the pilot project, which aims to put passenger ferries on Lake Washington by 2020. For the better part of the year, Seco has been talking with King County, the cities of Seattle, Bellevue, Renton, Kenmore and others, as well as local business interests about the service. Though the initial focus is on a route between Renton and Amazon’s backyard of South Lake Union, Seco envisions routes to other parts of Seattle as well as cities like Bellevue.

“In our rapidly growing region it is essential that we have a variety of transportation options,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a statement. “That is why I am encouraged when businesses like Seco get involved by creating innovative solutions like a water taxi.”

Seco is building a triumvirate of office towers designed for tech companies totaling approximately 730,000 square feet in Renton, right next door to Boeing’s factory, as part of its Southport project, which also includes a completed apartment project and hotel. A water taxi that drops off at the front door of Southport is sure to be a draw to tech giants that might otherwise balk at the location several miles, and plenty of traffic jams, from the traditional tech hotspots in Seattle and Bellevue.

Rocale Timmons, Seco’s director of planning and development and a former senior planner with the city of Renton, told GeekWire that the service will surely boost Southport, but the company looks at the project as a regional attraction that provides a new transportation alternative as well.

“Certainly establishing passenger service on Lake Washington would benefit the employer that makes Southport home and obviously benefits the city of Renton, however, there are 1 million plus people who either live or work in a three mile radius of the lake,” Timmons said.

Seco Development’s Southport campus on the banks of Lake Washington with the Seattle Skyline in the background. (Seco Development Rendering)

The 2020 start date could be just a few months after the final phase of the office project is done.

The water taxi project is still in early phases, so details like timing, capacity, funding, frequency, pricing and stops have yet to be decided, Timmons said. The company is considering 149-passenger catamarans similar to Kitsap Transit’s new fast ferry.

Seco is planning to arm the boats with amenities sure to please commuters, such as high speed internet, bike storage, standing desks and the ability to order coffee and snacks via smartphone. Seco doesn’t want to focus purely on commuters, and the service will likely have an entertainment and tourism element as well.

Seco’s project is reminiscent of the “Mosquito Fleet,” an armada of steam ships that ferried people and resources around the region for decades back in the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. Government authorities have explored bringing back a “foot ferry” system several times in recent years, but it had never come to pass.

Seco has grander ambitions in Renton than just its Southport project. It is in talks with the city and several nearby property owners to assemble land for several million more square feet of office space. The Southport site, along with adjacent land in Renton, was actually a part of the regional proposal to keep Amazon’s second North American headquarters.

“There’s approximately 700 acres in Renton that we believe is underdeveloped, and we’ve been working with the city to identify those sites that could accommodate these larges swatches of office spaces, especially given all the other infrastructure improvements coming into the area,” Timmons said.

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How Amazon’s Jobs Boom Has Affected Rent in Seattle

By Svenja Gudell

Seattle has one of the strongest housing markets in the country, with home value and rent growth consistently topping nationwide rankings in recent years. A strong local labor market has been an important driver of this growth, with the area being home to some of the country’s most dynamic companies, including Amazon and Microsoft (and, ahem, Zillow). Companies based elsewhere, such as Facebook and Google, have been increasingly drawn to establish satellite offices in the region.


South Lake Union

The neighborhood of South Lake Union – home to Amazon’s headquarters – has been the epicenter of this jobs boom. Over the past decade, the area has transformed from a low-rise, post-industrial district to a cluster of high rises and amenities catering to service sector workers (e.g., coffee shops, kale salads, and yoga studios).

South Lake Union and adjacent areas are home to the highest concentrations of people who work in South Lake Union, and they have seen the largest growth in numbers of residents who work in South Lake Union – an area where the employment landscape is dominated by Amazon.

As of 2015, three out of every 200 employed adults who live in South Lake Union also work in South Lake Union, the highest density of such employees across the Seattle metro. In parts of Belltown, Capitol Hill, Lower Queen Anne, Interbay, Fremont and Ballard, one to two out of every 200 employed adults works in South Lake Union.

Seattle metro census tracts with larger increases in the number of South Lake Union workers between 2011 and 2015 saw larger rent increases (on a per square foot basis) over the same period.

For the average census tract in the Seattle metro, the South Lake Union jobs boom has been associated with faster annual rent increases between 2011 and 2015 of around $0.01 per square foot (or about $5 per month on a typical 650 square foot 1-bedroom apartment). Rents per square foot increased by about $0.05 per year on average over the same period metro-wide. So for the average Seattle metro census tract, the South Lake Union jobs boom only explains a small portion of rising rents in recent years.

The relationship is stronger looking only at census tracts within the city of Seattle. For the average census tract inside the city of Seattle, the South Lake Union jobs boom has been associated with faster annual rent increases between 2011 and 2015 of around $0.07 per square foot (or about $44 per month on a typical 650 square foot 1-bedroom apartment). Rents per square foot increased by about $0.11 per year on average over the same period city wide.

Read more — and check out the charts — at Zillow Research.

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Amazon’s New Troy Building Opened Last Week in SLU

By Sarah Anne Lloyd

As Amazon expands their campus downtown—and looks to expand into other cities—they’re still gaining office space in South Lake Union. The latest project to house Amazon offices in the neighborhood, the Troy Building, officially opened last week.


Located between Boren and Fairview avenues and Harrison and Thomas streets, the complex includes two towers, one 12-story and the other 13-story, connected by a lower-rise building. The design by architecture firm Perkins+Will incorporates two historic buildings. The first is the project’s namesake, the 1927 Troy Laundry Building, a two-story Beaux Arts structure declared a Seattle landmark in 1996. The second, the Boren Investment Building, is a 1938 warehouse declared a landmark in 2011, just as plans solidified for the Troy Block.

The original buildings are clear from a distance, with the original rooflines and ornamentation preserved. Up close, the brickwork and original window style add a historic touch.

From the top: The façade of the Troy Laundry building between the north and south towers. The reception area of the south building. A flexible seating area in the north building. A meeting area in the north tower.

In addition to the 817,000 square feet that’s going to Amazon offices, the project includes five restaurants by Farestart, a nonprofit that provides job training to people struggling with homelessness, addiction, poverty, or a criminal record.

From the top: The interior of Rise Café by Farestart. Farestart’s Community Table.  The exterior of Maslow’s by Farestart.

The project was started by Seattle-based developer Touchstone, who was purchased by another local developer, Urban Renaissance Group, in 2014.

This massive uptick in office space comes soon after Amazon’s announcement that they’d be taking over all the office space in Seattle’s soon-to-be second-tallest skyscraper, the Rainier Tower. To the north, construction is still underway expanding Amazon’s massive campus surrounding the new Day One building—and the spheres.

Syndicated from Seattle Curbed.