Denver, Seattle lead race to build homes in US downtowns

Mile High City has 50 projects under construction, Emerald City has 33

Denver and Seattle Lead Race to Build Homes Downtown
Downtown Seattle Association's Jon Scholes (Together Washington, Getty)

Denver leads the nation in the number of housing projects in its downtown, followed by Seattle.

Downtown Denver has nearly 50 projects under construction and around 125 in final planning stages, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported. Seattle trails at 33 mostly residential projects, with 105 in the final planning stages.

Denver and Seattle account for nearly half the homes being built in the nation’s downtowns, plus two-thirds of the office space, according to a Downtown Seattle Association year-end development report. 

Residential construction leads in Seattle and other cities, based on demand, according to the Business Journal.

Seattle was the fastest-growing large city in the nation for the 12 months starting July 2021, when its downtown grew by more than 5,500 residents, accounting for 32 percent of the city’s population growth, according to the association.

Seattle now has 16,189 proposed residential units in its development pipeline, plus nearly 8 million square feet of offices and 831 hotel rooms.

Despite the expected growth, recent building permits have plummeted.

Seattle issued 15 permits for the year through mid-October, compared to the peak of 101 in 2016, when and Facebook were expanding as Expedia, Google and Weyerhaeuser made plans to move into Downtown and nearby neighborhoods.

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“The general desire to live in dynamic urban settings was climbing pre-pandemic and we think that preference remains intact,” Jon Scholes, CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association, said in a statement.

Seattle and Bellevue were among the 10 most popular destinations for millennials, according to a SmartAsset study of last year’s U.S. Census Bureau data. More than 93,000 millennials moved to Seattle last year, while Bellevue had an increase of 17,131 residents between 25 and 44.

“People want to be close to the arts and cultural venues, restaurants, retail, entertainment and new amenities on the way like a redeveloped waterfront,” Scholes said. “We need to keep making progress on making Downtown inviting, clean and safe, and we’re on the right track.”

Multifamily projects made up nearly 66 percent of the proposed, planned or under-construction projects across the U.S. downtowns reviewed by the association, followed by office projects at 19 percent and hotels at 13 percent.

Seattle has more than 7,200 homes under construction, more than double the 3,500 housing units being built by its next closest city, Los Angeles, according to the Business Journal.

New projects in Downtown Seattle in the next several years are expected to cost $668 million, with 40 percent planned for South Lake Union, 20 percent planned in Capitol Hill and 13 percent in Uptown/Lower Queen Anne.

— Dana Bartholomew

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