Commercial Real Estate

Time to Focus on Seattles Future

By Jane Rakay Nelson of Lane Powell PC August 13, 2010


Jane NelsonIn 2009, Seattle welcomed Link Light Rail, approved an
Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement plan and celebrated decisions of PATH, Russell
Investments and ShareBuilder to relocate downtown.

But even though recent reports show some promising
indicators, many say recoveryparticularly in the commercial and residential
real estate marketsis still years away. This economic lull provides us with an
opportunity to plan for better days ahead and ensures Seattle is well
positioned when the economy recovers.

Laying the Groundwork for Development

An important step toward the citys emergence from the
economic doldrums was the extension of master-use permits, allowing currently
permitted development projects that are on hold to avoid having to go back
through the permitting process once economic conditions normalize. This
extension positions Seattle to recover quickly from the recession, and provides
stimulus for new construction critical to creating jobs and tax revenue for
city services.

We can also make a difference by relaxing height and density
limits for new construction projects. Land use and zoning policies have long
been recognized as key components in encouraging investment and vitality, and
now Seattle has the rare opportunity to take bold action for our future by
re-examining these important strategies.

Repeal of the citys employee head tax also sends a positive
message to businesses looking to grow and relocate here.

A Clean and Safe Downtown

Fundamental to a healthy, vibrant urban core are clean,
safe, attractive spaces. Reducing panhandling while continuing to provide
social services to those in need, enhancing our streetscapes and public areas,
and continuing to increase the police presence will help make downtown
welcoming to all.

Improving Infrastructure

We must also work to protect and grow key elements of our
infrastructure. We cannot afford to lose momentum generated by moving forward
with replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. We should set and meet goals to choose
the appropriate configuration for the west side of the SR 520 bridge
replacement. Aside from the projects critical importance to the system,
Seattles procrastination is damaging relations with its neighbors east of Lake

It is also essential to maintain and enhance transit
service, which is important to the economy and for moving workers, residents
and visitors around Seattle. Metro faces a $500 million shortfall in sales tax
revenue during the next four years, likely resulting in cuts to service. Under
current policy, any service reductions are made in proportion to existing
service levels. Seattlewith more than 60 percent of bus servicestands to lose
the most.

To protect this critical component of our infrastructure, we
must preserve service on routes with the highest ridership. We must also work
to identify alternative funding sources and make sure that any reductions in
service are treated as suspensions in service rather than permanent cuts.

Convention Center Expansion

Finally, we must convince the state Legislature to authorize
expansion of the Washington State Convention & Trade Center, which is
currently the smallest of all its West Coast competitors. As a result, it has
lost out on nearly $2 billion in potential business during the past five years.

By essentially doubling capacitypaid for with existing
hotel tax fundsthe center will greatly enhance Seattles ability to attract
convention business, which generates significant revenues for businesses, the
city and the state.

Based on the positive long-term impact of the opportunities
described above, we cannot expect economic growth to rebound on its own. Rather
than waiting for the economy to stabilize, we must take the initiative now to
secure our future.

This is a sponsored report from Lane Powell PC. Jane Rakay Nelson is a shareholder at Lane
and co-chairs the firms Real Estate Practice Group, where she focuses
on financing, lease and acquisition transactions. Nelson is also chair of the
Downtown Seattle Association Board of Trustees, co-chair of the Fred Hutchinson
Cancer Research Centers Presidents Affiliates Council and a member of the
Woodland Park Zoo board. She can be reached at [email protected] or

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