Friday’s news that Amazon is purchasing its main campus from Vulcan is one of many recent harbingers of fortune for South Lake Union and plenty proof that early investment in the neighborhood is now paying dividends. The purchase comes to the tune of $1.16 billion, nearly half a billion more than the $700 million that it cost Vulcan to develop the complex. The sizable return means investment for still more development in SLU, particularly now that private money is helping fund public infrastructure projects.
I’m a believer that the boon makes a fairly strong local case for rail investment– while we’ve heard about billions of dollars worth of development spurred on by rail in cities like Phoenix and Portland, South Lake Union presents us our own shining example of strong private returns on public investment. As a result, Amazon is now chipping in to purchase a new streetcar for more frequent operations, while Denny Park is re-earning its reputation as a vibrant urban space.
The SLU case has given rail proponents a lot of leverage moving forward– the Amazon sale alone translates into millions in local taxes, solidifying a stronger tax base overall on top of the billions in private development. Much of the credit should go where it is due: to the former mayorship of Greg Nickels, who championed the early visioning of the neighborhood’s future. While Nickels took a lot of heat for his investment of political capital, it’s clear now that his efforts have paid off and paid off well.