As a 38-year veteran of the title industry, there aren’t too many buildings in Seattle that I haven’t insured. I’ve seen a lot of exciting commercial development during that time. But with the current market thriving and future prospects very bright, Seattle is an especially exciting place to be right now.
In the past year, we’ve seen a significant number of $75 million deals and about a dozen in the $100 million+ range, including a $1.1 billion deal in which Amazon became the largest property-owner in Seattle. Amazon’s purchase included 11 buildings with 1.8 million square feet in the South Lake Union area, just north of downtown.
There are a number of factors driving this strong commercial growth. One is the strong base of large companies like Amazon, Nordstrom, Boeing and Microsoft. They’re fostering a highly educated workforce along with confidence that jobs and opportunity will continue to grow. Transactions like the South Lake Union deal are expanding our downtown business section. The development is causing a reversal of the flight to the suburbs, with young adults moving back to the urban core.
The rush back into heart of the city is generating tremendous growth in multifamily development. Major projects on hold for several years have broken ground. In total, more than 22,000 apartments are under construction or being planned in the Seattle/Puget Sound area, according to the Seattle Times.
It’s interesting to see vibrant new residents breathe life into existing areas, spurring new restaurants, hotels and businesses. There’s something unique percolating here that people want to be part of. It feels similar to the culture phenomenon that took place in Silicon Valley in the 70s and 80s.
Seattle’s phenomenal growth isn’t happening equally throughout the city. It’s concentrated in micro segments across the area. One is in the very heart of Seattle – Pioneer Square. New restaurants, apartment developments and entertainment facilities are being built. A new basketball and hockey arena, which is intended to bring the NBA back to Seattle after nearly five years, is being planned downtown. The nearby landscape of our waterfront will change when a new tunnel system is built to replace the current highway that runs adjacent to the water.
Without a doubt, 2013 holds a lot of promise for Seattle. While the deals may not be quite as big as those we saw in 2012, we expect more of them.
Stewart is well-equipped to help clients navigate the influx of development here in Seattle. We’ve learned that each deal that comes through the door will be unique, and we adapt our services to meet those unique wants and needs. We certainly provide the solid underwriting our customers have come to expect, but one of our true advantages is our responsiveness. Our customers have confidence that we’ll do what’s necessary to move a transaction to the closing table and handle any snags along the way.