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Rise of the Vulcans

Rise of the Vulcans
Seattle mayor Mike McGinn has proposed a city rezone that would allow buildings of 160 to 200 feet in certain South Lake Union areas. (Sorry, adrenaline junkies, that's still too low to BASE jump.) We sat down with Vulcan exec Lori Mason Curran for coffee near the company's Pioneer Square offices to get the scoop on what that means for Seattle's most intriguing new neighborhood.
Vulcan Real Estate Director of Investment Real Estate Stretegy Lori Mason Curran in Pioneer Square.
If McGinn can sell his plan to the city council, it would allow for "a really exciting connection between Mercer and the lake," Lori tells us. The rezone would also encourage more development of residential and affordable housing, something downtowners and wannabe downtowners have been clamouring for. With 3,000 units and 30,000 people working in South Lake Union, "I don't think anybody would argue against the need for more residential."
South Lake Union by night.
Lori says Vulcan has four projects under way in SLU: Amazon Phase 5 (which the company will be occupying at the end of the year), phase three of the UW's Medical School (due next February) and two downtown apartment projects totaling 466 units. Lori adds that Vulcan is also doing pre-dev on a couple of new office buildings. "Something's going to happen," she says. "Vacancy keeps coming down. It's only a matter of time."
Allison DeLong and Larie Meeker of Tishman Speyer outside Ting Momo in Seattle.
We snapped Tishman Speyer's Allison Delong and Larie Meeker on a South Lake Union tour recently in front of Ting Momo. To avoid having the area become a ghost-town at night, "we've really tried to cultivate a restaurant row," Lori says; the neighborhood is already home to other Tom Douglas establishments such as Cuoco and Brave Horse Tavern. Swedish Hospital recently opened a medical clinic, the neighborhood's first. Opening this summer: Top Pot Doughnuts; a well-known hair salon (name withhheld because of a healthy respect for suspense); and several new restaurants.
The South Lake Union Streetcar.
What doesn't South Lake Union have? A lot of retail outside of furniture shops, Lori says. What do people want to see in South Lake Union? "A pharmacy," Lori adds. (Our suggestion for a giant ball pit was wisely ignored.) So far SLU has been developed organically, she adds, without specific plans. At the 10-year-mark, Vulcan has built 5M SF, with the potential for another 5M SF in the next decade. Although—"Maybe it'll take less than 10 years," Lori says. "We know what we're doing now."