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Is peak construction over? Seattle development declines at fastest rate in more than a decade

Mike Rosenberg, The Seattle Times on

Published in Home and Consumer News

SEATTLE -- Seattle's record construction boom may have peaked: Development activity across the central part of the city is declining at the fastest rate in at least 12 years.

At the end of this past year, there were 57 active projects underway in the area that stretches from South Lake Union to Sodo, according to a report released Monday by the Downtown Seattle Association. That's down from a record high of 74 projects six months prior.

The 23 percent decline amounts to the biggest six-month drop since the downtown association began its twice-a-year construction counts in 2005.

It comes after a recent survey found Seattle's crane count had dipped for the first time in years.

Of course, the slowdown is all relative: Even with the recent decrease, the development activity going on now surpasses anything seen before 2015 -- even beating out the surge from this past decade before the recession hit. And Seattle's falling crane count is still good enough to lead the country.

Will the slowing trend continue? On one hand, nearly half of the projects underway now are set to wrap up by the end of the year, and the downtown group expects fewer apartments to open in the next few years than in 2017.

But there are still 220 potential future projects in the pipeline for the greater downtown region (not all of those will get built, and some will be delayed many years, but several are in the final planning stages).

The construction frenzy that began half a decade ago has remade the skyline and added density to areas once filled with parking lots, as new apartments and offices sprout up to transform the city.

As residents and commuters know all too well, the surge has also caused headaches: It's tough to travel even a few blocks without hitting a closed street, a blocked sidewalk or closed-off street parking, and jackhammering noise has become an unofficial soundtrack to city life.

About two-thirds of the projects getting built now have a residential component, and almost all of those are apartment buildings.


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