Architects are often referred to as optimists. They envision a city’s future and plan for it. That kind of optimism is incredibly important for the Seattle area real estate market as the city works to accommodate widespread growth. According to New York architect Vishaan Chakrabarti, who recently spoke at the Downtown Seattle Association’s annual breakfast meeting, Seattle’s conditions are perfect for becoming a futuristic city.
What is a futuristic city?
Chakrabarti describes this type of city as dense, walkable, and mixed. It uses less land and has fewer old-school office parks. It encourages people to live in more compact circumstances and has a more dense way of living that is largely rail-based. It fosters relationships and innovation. It calls for massive investment in infrastructure to support cities via transportation nodes, safety, parks, cultural activities, and affordable housing.
Based on this description it seems as if Seattle is already well on its way to becoming a futuristic city. For example, an article from Curbed reported the Housing and Livability Agenda (HALA) will rezone Seattle neighborhoods to be taller near Light Rail stations and gradually return to conventional houses as the distance to the stations increases. This change is expected to affect the density of the entire region, including the Eastside.
However, considering the rate of growth in the region it has taken quite a while to get to this point. Other trends characteristic of a futuristic city, like compact housing (i.e. tiny houses), have been on Seattle’s radar for a while, but when they first appeared it seemed as if people sought them out due to preference or in the pursuit of personal fulfillment. Now we are looking to this city landscape with more urgency, and as a much-needed solution and way of sustaining our city.
Why does Seattle need to be a futuristic city?
According to Chakrabarti the answer to this question is the answer to most questions pertaining to Seattle’s rapid growth: Amazon.com. One year ago 245,000 people were employed in downtown Seattle. That number is now up to 265,000 and more than 25,000 of those people are Amazon employees. This is contributing to the reshaping of Seattle and surrounding areas in tangible ways – the record-number of cranes dotting our skyline, traffic congestion and longer commute times, and of course “razor thin” housing inventory.
What are the economic and social benefits?
Chakrabarti states, “As people live in denser circumstances, more innovation happens, more patent creation happens, and it is because people are running into each other, and there is serendipity as a consequence.” We are already the third most innovative state in the U.S. and third in patent activity so it would be interesting to discover how much more creation and innovation could result from a full transformation into a futuristic city.
There are also several social benefits to living in this type of urban development. Drinking and driving plummets, childhood obesity rates drop, and divorce rates go down as commute times are reduced.
There is no doubt that Seattle is growing up, and quickly. No matter what it becomes I will be happy to assist you with navigating the real estate market during the process.