Editor’s Note: A View of the Future

What kind of city will emerge from Seattle’s incredible growth spurt?

Stop and listen. Do you hear it? The roar of the city is just a little louder, more jarring. Drivers are quicker to honk their horns, run red lights and screech their brakes.

Turn your head. Look out the window. There’s yet another building appearing from nowhere like a missile rising from its underground silo to prepare for launch.

The West Edge Tower going up at Second and Pike has been steadily eating away at our view of the sound and sky, a small sacrifice so tenants of 339 luxury apartments can have “unobstructed views.” A half block south of our office, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant has shut down to prepare for the construction of the 58-story, boot-shaped Rainier Square Tower that will inevitably obstruct some of our obstructors’ views. Next door to us, the former Office Depot site remains an empty shell as it awaits its next incarnation.

It’s all very unsettling. Seattle’s been booming for three years now and it just won’t quit. Bus riders wonder if Metro will soon hire Tokyo-style pushers to cram the commuters in at rush hour. Who doesn’t wonder when the buildings will finally stop climbing, the rents stop rising?

And what toll will it take on the city, this incessant drumbeat of commerce and construction? On page 38, Jake Bullinger looks at the Central District, a part of Seattle that is undergoing particularly wrenching changes as many black-owned businesses and black residents are priced out of the area.

As we sense the heart of the city beating just a little faster, perhaps that quickening is also a sense of anticipation — that a great transformation is in process and that what emerges from the chrysalis will be inspiring.

Why not? Bertha confounded critics by successfully completing its voyage through the city’s bowels. Now we can tear down the double-decker concrete roadway that has walled us off from Elliott Bay for more than 60 years. Sound Transit, once the train to nowhere, is beginning to feel like a real mass transit system.

We are the stage on which the world’s two richest men are enacting their ambitious agendas: Bill Gates to rid the world of disease, Jeff Bezos to transform retail and launch space travel. A broader community of wealthy led by Paul Allen is doing something equally daring: pouring private money into basic research without expectation of profit.

Then there’s the real magic that’s increasingly available in our ever-evolving city: that delectable meal prepared by chefs who can match up with the best anywhere in the world; the delightful play that kindles the spirit and rouses us to be better; the astonishing startup that excites the passions of its founders; the pensive institutions like the Seattle Athenaeum, a membership library that Town Hall founder David Brewster created as an oasis for reading and contemplating amid the chaos of downtown’s construction boom. It’s those immediate pleasures along with dreams of the future that will nurture our souls even as new skyscrapers cast the dark shadows of a Manhattan-style skyline.

LESLIE HELM is executive editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at leslie.helm@tigeroak.com.

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