Seattle mayor asks public to reimagine downtown residential use
Apr 5, 2023, 2:56 PM
(Nicola via Flickr Creative Commons)
With declining foot traffic in downtown Seattle since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) is sponsoring a competition to get ideas from the public on how to redesign the district for more residential use.
Teams of building owners, architects, and designers are invited to submit proposals for increasing residency, which will help to bring people back to downtown Seattle and bring more foot traffic to businesses.
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A big part of revitalizing downtown is increasing pedestrian traffic in the area, especially from people that were in the area daily for work before the pandemic, many of whom work remotely. Despite directives from major employers, like Google and Amazon, for workers to return to the office, the monthly worker foot traffic is currently only 47% of what it was before the pandemic, according to the Downtown Seattle Association.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the DSA estimates approximately 500 street-level businesses closed against roughly 300 new businesses opening in downtown Seattle.
One of Harrell’s downtown goals is to reimagine the area as a place for professionals to live instead of just a place to commute to work. Already about 4,000 more apartment units occupy downtown than before the pandemic, with record levels of inventory and number of occupied units.
“Our long-term plans center downtown as a laboratory for the future. The possibilities are endless,” said Mayor Harrell in his ‘Call for Ideas’ portion of his State of the City speech in February.
The ‘Call for Ideas’ meeting will continue pushing the conversion of Seattle downtown commercial office spaces to residential use forward, with buildings submitting plans for renovation into residential units. The best projects will be rewarded with cash prizes. OPCD will offer recognition to the top three scoring submissions with honorariums in the following amounts. The highest-scoring submittal will receive $10,000, and the two second-place entries will receive $7,500. All projects will also receive a smaller honorarium based on the number of submissions and the plan’s budget.
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“We seek visions for downtown that celebrate the intersection between residential, business, and civic activities,” said Rico Quirindongo, Acting Director of OPCD. “We will foster ideas that expand the concept of downtown as a vibrant residential neighborhood, in addition to its history as a place of commerce, entertainment, and tourism. Together we can foster a bright future for downtown residents and a neighborhood welcoming to all.”