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In With The Old!

In With The Old!
Our headline could be the war cry that emerged when talking about transit-oriented development yesterday at our event on the subject. As Wright Runstad & Co prez Greg Johnson puts it, "old is the new new." (A quote that might allow any hippie to sit and ponder aimlessly for awhile, thanks to certain new state laws.)
The crowd of nearly 200 at the Renaissance Seattle for the Bisnow Transit Oriented Development Summit.
The crowd of 200 at the Seattle Renaissance. The mantra above refers to familiar sites (both industrial and historic) that will be remade with transit in mind. It was pointed out that great cities— Paris, London, Tokyo, New York—have fabulous rapid transit systems. Seattle's a bit more like Istanbul, an emerging power metropolis with a smorgasboard of transit optionsbus, rail, ferry, sitting in traffic—all more or less linked together. (Like Istanbul, we also have above average hummus.) Light rail is the way of the future: by 2023, it will have extended to Bellevue, Lynnwood, and Kent.
John Hempelmann of Cairncross & Hempelmann at The Seattle Renaissance.
Mr. TOD John Hempelmann of Cairncross & Hempelmann concedes that Seattle is a late bloomer TOD-wise (Paris began thinking about a city metro around the same time the Denny party was landing at Alki). But John says we're going to get there: "It's what's coming, and you should want to be a part of it." John lobbied US Housing and Urban Development for $5M for our Growing Transit Communities project, part of which went to hire Puget Sound Regional Council planner and panelist Michael Hubner (a man with the perfect last name for his job).
Vulcan Investment Strategy Director Lori Mason Curran at the Seattle Renaissance.
The innovators at Vulcan report the South Lake Union Trolley is transporting 3,000 riders per day and companies like Amazon and Fred Hutch have paid to extend the service. Aside from the good it does commuters, a streetcar line going by your business raises rents, Vulcan investment strategy director Lori Mason Curran points out. Although Vulcan has been careful to respect and preserve some of the neighborhood's historic buildings, there's no going back to the way things were, says Lori.
Wright Runstad & Co. President and CEO Greg Johnson at the Bisnow Transit Oriented Development Summit at The Seattle Renaissance.
Wright Runstad has already built more than 4M SF within walking distance of the Bellevue Transit Center, and will be putting another 5M more into the Bel-Red corridor's Spring District within the next several years—and light rail will run through it, of course, says Greg. Sixteen city blocks of the old industrial area along Bellevue's auto row have been rezoned for high-density mixed-use—higher density than Pioneer Square or even South Lake Union. 500k SF of office development is going through permitting, and Wright Runstad also has a handshake deal with a developer for 300 multifamily units.
Wallace Properties President Kevin Wallace at the Seattle Renaissance.
Northgate, was thought to be the new poster child for TOD when the state adopted the Growth Management Act in 1990, but it stagnated due to a lack of infrastructure and a civic war over Thornton Creek. Thanks to the city's investments, a platform has been created that allowed Northgate to emerge as a center for TOD, says Wallace Properties president Kevin Wallace. Wallace and Stellar Holdings built over 500 units in Northgate in 2009—the area's first transit-oriented multifamily projects in 20 years— and will be starting a 265-unit project there next year. With light rail coming in 2021, it may just get that poster child status after all.
Panelists at the Bisnow Transit Oriented Development Summit at the Seattle Renaissance.
In this brave new world of rapid transit, what of the humble automobile? "You're never going to eliminate the car," John predicts. Which means we'll need somewhere to park them, even if it's at a light rail station. Parking is an "incredibly tricky" issue, Greg adds. "Get it wrong and you could be toast." Lori concurs: even in an age where people don't necessarily want to drive as much, "lenders just won't get their arms around a building without parking."