Growth skeptics love to complain about South Lake Union. It’s too sterile, too corporate, too luxury — it couldn’t possibly help address housing affordability.
I never bought into that — just building units does a lot of good for the region — but give it just a little time, and districts like SLU can solve the problems that growth critics claim to care about. Exhibit A: Crystal City, Virginia ($), a soulless 1980s sea of single-use office buildings, now in hard times due to defense cuts:
At first glance, there appears to be nothing new among the high-rise offices and apartments lining Crystal Drive and its bisecting streets in this Arlington County enclave. In fact, there is little new construction. Instead, buildings from the 1960s to 1980s are being retrofitted, some converted from offices to apartments, others welcoming new commercial tenants, including tech start-ups, co-working spaces and restaurants.
The area… is attracting residents and younger workers with competitive rents and convenient transportation options.
Perhaps this won’t be SLU’s fate: I’ve spent enough time in both to know that it is a much better urbanist space than its counterpart. It may continue to thrive as a regional economic driver. This wouldn’t be a bad thing! But in the long term, SLU will either succeed or it will fail, and in either case all of these buildings developers are putting up will do Seattle a lot of good.