Is Seattle an 18-Hour City?

24-hour cities like New York and Los Angeles have been the obvious choice for investors for years, but lately investment dollars seek an emerging new trend: the 18-hour city. These cities are not quite ‘around-the-clock’ global centers, yet are burgeoning urban hubs coming to define the ever sought-after work-live-play lifestyle.

There’s no question of whether Seattle is an investment darling – employment growth? Check. Population growth? Check. Wide range of available activities, during the day and night? Check and check.

Our downtown core still requires growth and increased vibrancy to offer the ideal mix of retail, business, housing, and recreation that peak 18-hour cities like Chicago and Boston offer, but that tide is quickly changing. So are we an 18-hour city yet?

Seattle is so often defined as a “city of great neighborhoods” (or I often hear – “everybody in Seattle lives in the best neighborhood”).  I think it’s equally important for the prescient investor to seek the 18-hour neighborhoods – even better yet, soon-to-be 18-hour neighborhoods.

This week, I’ll examine several of Seattle’s neighborhoods and grade their progress toward becoming 18-hour neighborhoods, and therefore offering strong investment opportunities.

It’s no coincidence that the neighborhoods closest to being 18-hour areas are also some of the areas with the strongest rent growth potential!

Seattle’s 18-Hour Neighborhood Contenders

Source: Colliers Seattle Multifamily Team

Fremont

Fremont is undeniably Seattle’s best 18-hour neighborhood, living up to its nickname as the “Center of the Universe.” Fremont has always been a popular home for the city’s artists and for families, but in the past five years the area has become an employment hub and a social scene, too.

Parks & Recreation: Tourist destinations like Gasworks Park or the Fremont Troll are just the tip of the iceberg for Fremont – the neighborhood has a ton of green space, as well as cafes, brunch spots, farmers markets, and famous parades.

Employment: Where else in the city could you work at an internationally renowned company, and still walk your dog during your lunch break? Big names like Google, Adobe, Tableau, Brooks, and Deloitte Digital currently call Fremont home, and after Google moves to South Lake Union, count on other employers rushing to take their spot in this popular area, should office space become available (it is otherwise one of the tightest office markets in Seattle).

Food & Nightlife: Fremont is a foodie’s paradise. The neighborhood has some of the city’s best breweries, bars, and restaurateurs. Beyond a perfect craft IPA or a gourmet burger, Fremont offers a range of late night pubs for locals to haunt.  The best ‘foodie’ test for a true 18-hour neighborhood: are cool, hip restaurants open at noon to book a business lunch?  In Fremont, absolutely!

Transit: Fremont stands at the crossroads for several major transit lines toward University District, South Lake Union, or Downtown. SR-99 also runs Fremont as well, making commutes easy.

Belltown

Belltown was a popular nightlife destination in Seattle for a long time, but now the neighborhood is in a full-on renaissance as surrounding neighborhoods like South Lake Union and Downtown have exploded in growth and revived Belltown.

Parks & Recreation: Belltown is as close as you can get to Pike Place Market and the Pier, and the Olympic Sculpture Park is nearby, yet the neighborhood can still be a little lethargic during the day, and there aren’t a lot of parks or public spaces besides Bell Street Park.  Daytime activation is mostly about a short walk to work, yet expect more daytime activities to emerge as new apartment buildings and office buildings fill with people looking for something to do!

Employment: Belltown is sandwiched between South Lake Union and Downtown, putting residents within a 10 minute of thousands of jobs.

Arts & Nightlife: From famous concert halls to pool halls and bustling nightclubs, this small neighborhood packs a lot of nighttime action into its long streets.  The nightlife fell into a bit of disrepair during the Great Recession.  For those of you reading from NYC – think “B&T” at its finest.  Yet, interesting, fresh restaurants and retail concepts are sprouting up, displacing less desirable venues that have been the source of neighborhood problems.

Transit: The neighborhood has a Transit Score of 98, and it’s perfectly located along countless transit routes that dip through downtown Seattle.

 

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill nearly has it all: the Pike/Pine corridor offers an almost overwhelming number of restaurants and bars to choose from, and residents are a quick ride away from downtown, South Lake Union, or the Eastside. There’s good reason that this is one of the priciest neighborhoods in the city – everyone wants to live here.

Parks & Recreation: While Volunteer Park is beautiful, the busier parts of Capitol Hill can make the neighborhood a tougher daytime spot for families or locals.

Employment: Capitol Hill’s proximity to the city’s biggest employment hubs make it ideal for residents who dread long commutes (who doesn’t?), yet it still doesn’t offer much in the way of neighborhood employment opportunities for most residents.  Back to booking a business lunch.  Don’t even try doing so in Capitol Hill.  This is Capitol Hill’s weakest point, keeping it from 18-hour neighborhood stardom.

Arts & Nightlife: Drive down Pike or Pine on any night of the week to see why Capitol Hill is the city’s most popular destination for drinking and dancing.

Transit: The Capitol Hill light rail station has already made this neighborhood one of the most accessible in the city, and the light rail’s expansion will just further connect it to the rest of Seattle.

 

Queen Anne

Queen Anne doesn’t immediately come to mind when most people think of bustling, 18-hour locales, but the development of Lower Queen Anne as well as the Westlake area have made this an activated, vibrant neighborhood at any hour.  Next to Fremont, Queen Anne is Seattle’s next closest true 18-hour neighborhood candidate.

Parks & Recreation: It’s hard to beat the potent combination of the Space Needle, Seattle Center, the Museum of Pop Culture, and the local ballet and opera house, all within one mile.

Employment: Lower Queen Anne offers easy access to South Lake Union and major employers like Facebook, Pemco, and Google, but the top of the hill can be much tougher to leave and is predominantly residential.

Arts & Nightlife: Queen Anne doesn’t have the same concentration of bars as other neighborhoods, but the neighborhood has enough cultural centers and upscale bars to keep the area hopping after dark. Seattleites can enjoy a gourmet dinner from a famous chef before they attend a play at the Seattle Repertory Theater, see a concert at the Vera Project, or just catch a movie at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

Transit: The base of Queen Anne offers the best transit access, but this Seattle hill isn’t as well-connected as its counterparts around the city.

 

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square has benefited from its central location between the Stadium District, Downtown, and the Pier, and it’s gradually grown into a destination for artists and creative types to set up shop.  What it lacks is the best type of evening and weekend activation – yet it is well on its way!

Parks & Recreation: Occidental Square sits at the heart of the neighborhood, and regular art walks and music festivals keep this neighborhood active during the day.

Employment: Some tech companies have set up their engineering centers in the affordable office space in Pioneer Square, while juggernauts like Weyerhaeuser recently moved their full headquarters into the neighborhood.  Most importantly, Pioneer Square is the creative’s haven, a true TAMI work-place destination: Tech-Advertisement-Media-Information.  Think of TAMI jobs as STEM’s cooler younger sibling.

Arts & Nightlife: Pioneer Square’s proximity to the Seahawks and Mariners’ stadiums ensure that the area is always activated at night, either with celebratory sports fans or simply locals looking for a night out.

Transit: Pioneer Square is the most transit dense neighborhood on the West Coast. Between the light rail, buses, the ferry terminal, and SR-99, renters can get anywhere in the city easily.

 

South Lake Union

Amazon? Facebook? Google? Investors are saying, yes please! South Lake Union is an undeniable comfort zone for many investors in Seattle, and with good reason.  Yet, how close is it to 18-hour neighborhood status?

Parks & Recreation: While the neighborhood has plenty of employment opportunities, during working hours South Lake Union can feel more like a corporate campus than a true neighborhood.

Employment: This neighborhood sprang into being because of Amazon, and it has the highest concentration of tech jobs of anywhere in the city. In short, this is Seattle’s tech employment mecca.

Arts & Nightlife: South Lake Union doesn’t have the same late-night scene as some of the other neighborhoods on this list, but upscale bars like Mbar and re:public are bringing life into the area after working hours are over.  It may not have arrived … but it’s on the way!

Transit: While the streets are often congested, South Lake Union has excellent transit options for residents and employees. The neighborhood’s central location also provides easy access to both SR-99 and I-5.

 

Redmond

As more renters are priced out of Seattle’s core, traditionally suburban centers like Redmond are reaping the benefits and changing to keep pace. Several new restaurants and breweries have opened up over the past few years, making downtown Redmond active outside of the typical daytime hours.  Redmond fits into the new category of “urban-suburban” hubs and is one answer to the great question – “what happens when Millennials grow-up?

Parks & Recreation: While the city is still developing its lively urban core, it still offers plenty of parks, enjoyable public spaces, and regular farmers markets. Marymoor Park hosts summer concerts that draw big names, and Redmond’s downtown is on its way to becoming a foodie hotspot.

Employment: One word: Microsoft. The tech giant attracts a lot of young tech talent to the Eastside, and many choose to live and play close to work.

Arts & Nightlife: Redmond has some work to do in this arena – its urban core is not quite bustling in the traditional sense; however the velocity at which urban growth is happening is setting a record pace.

Transit: Redmond will eventually get the light rail as part of the East Link Extension, but public transit is still a challenge for commuting to and from this Eastside neighborhood.

 

University District

I’ve written about the University District as the center of Seattle’s universe, and with good reason: the symbiotic relationship between Seattle and the University of Washington is, in my opinion, one of the best signs of promise for Seattle’s future – as well as that of the University District. This neighborhood is poised to continue its outsized growth over the next few years, and it’s my pick to be our next 18-hour neighborhood.

Parks & Recreation: The Ave offers plenty of retail opportunities, and the campus is one of the city’s most beautiful green spaces. The neighborhood also offers lakefront access for kayaking and boating, excellent access to biking trails, and a healthy dose of cafes, bookstores, and beloved local restaurants.

Employment: The University is one of the State’s largest employers, and it’s growing quickly. The University expects to grow its staff and its enrollment by 20% over the next 10 years. This growth is coming largely from the University’s tech focus (UW was just named as one of the most influential schools in tech!)

Last year, a computer science (CS) degree was the top choice for first-year students entering the University, and the school reports that nearly three-fourths of its graduates remain in Washington State – most all in Seattle. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Zillow have their eyes on UW graduates. As technology companies converge upon University of Washington, expect record growth in this department.

Arts & Nightlife: The Ave has its share of bars, but many of-age students and residents still opt to travel to other neighborhoods to find the best nightlife.

Transit: Beyond its location between two major freeways, the University District will have two light rail stations by 2021, making it a transit dream. With light rail, the University District Station is a hub at the center of employment centers to the North, South, East and West.

 

 

Investors should consider all of these factors in any neighborhood they’re analyzing – look for signs of an 18-hour lifestyle, and chances are that renters and therefore rent growth will follow! Our Seattle Multifamily Team spends a lot of time watching the market and keeping a close eye on emerging neighborhoods in the Puget Sound area. Call us today to discuss our latest investment opportunities!

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