South Lake Union Discovery Center

Who's Involved

Everything (and everyone) has come together to make South Lake Union great.

While Vulcan Real Estate plays a major role in the life of South Lake Union, there are countless other developers, community groups, business owners and involved citizens who take an active, informed role in the future of their neighborhood. For example, South Lake Union has a vital Chamber of Commerce that serves as a forum for issues ranging from transportation to supporting incubator businesses.

Meanwhile, Vulcan’s role is not the usual one between a developer and a neighborhood. While most developers are content to build and move on, Vulcan has and will remain involved in the South Lake Union neighborhood for decades to come.

Where did this all come from?
South Lake Union is hardly a newcomer to the scene. The First People — probably members of the Salish or Duwamish tribes — camped, fished, and hunted near Lake Union, then known as Tenas Chuck, for centuries. In the 1850s, after the first European settlers arrived, South Lake Union became a home to a sawmill fed by logs floated across the lake.

The character of the area as an industrial, blue-collar neighborhood stayed intact for decades, until the early 1990s, when the City of Seattle began contemplating plans for a Seattle Commons park and commercial development.

Paul Allen, the founder of Vulcan, agreed to lend $30 million to the Commons effort to kick-start the acquisition of land for the project, with the understanding that the loan would be forgiven if voters approved a measure to proceed with the Commons. When voters later turned down the Commons proposal twice, in 1995 and 1996, the land that had been acquired with the loan reverted to Vulcan, which began to independently develop its properties.

Today Vulcan Real Estate continues to join other building owners and residents in remaking South Lake Union – an area that will have seen the infusion of more than $2 billion of private investment between 2003 and 2012. In fact, since 2003 the area has been home to the addition of more than 2,300 residential units and 2 million square feet of office, laboratory, hospitality, and retail space; while another 2 million square feet is currently under construction.

Where is all this going?
If you’ve spent any time in South Lake Union today, you have a pretty good idea of what it will be like tomorrow. In fact, what you can fully experience right now is a diverse mix of retail businesses, office buildings, condominiums, and apartments. In the years ahead, there will be even more options for places to live — from starter apartments to townhouses to high-end view condos.

Another aspect of South Lake Union life that’s here today and only increasing in the years ahead is the area’s emphasis on walkability, excellent public transportation, and sustainable design and construction.

South Lake Union

Bird's-eye view of south end of Lake Union circa 1891. Courtesy of UW Special Collections.

South Lake Union

The Seattle Streetcar connects South Lake Union to the downtown Seattle retail core. At left 2200, at right Enso and 2201 Westlake.

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