South Lake Union

South Lake Union South Lake Union
 
If ever there were a diamond in the rough, the 340-acre South Lake Union neighborhood fits the definition. Throughout history, the area was known as a center for industry, commerce, and residential development. In the 1880s it was home to David Denny’s original sawmill and by the 1930s and 40s, the neighborhood was composed of small wholesalers and commercial laundries. It was also a transportation hub for streetcar traffic, connecting downtown with neighborhoods to the north.  
However, in the latter part of the twentieth century, South Lake Union had fallen on hard times. Much of the neighborhood had languished for decades, with uneven development, dilapidated warehouses, gas stations, and snarled commuter traffic notoriously referred to as the “Mercer Mess.” With the completion in the 1960s of I-5 to the East, and bordered to the West by SR-99, the neighborhood was mostly cut off from other parts of the city. That’s when a nonprofit group put forth the idea of creating the Seattle Commons — a 60-acre park proposed to Seattle citizens in the 1990s. Paul and others in the community envisioned a large, central greenspace akin to the Boston Commons or Central Park in New York. It would be ringed by vertical campuses with modern towers that would house knowledge workers in technology, research, and telecommunications companies. Once the committee officially formed, Paul loaned it $20 million (later committing up to $30 million) to buy the seed parcels of property and agreed to donate that money if the public approved the project. 
Unfortunately, the idea was rejected by voters twice, in 1995 and 1996. As a result, Paul became the de facto owner of 11.5 acres of land, so he pivoted and put together a team that would create a thoughtful plan for the property he now owned in the area. In 1998, his company, Vulcan, adopted a “Connected Community” vision for South Lake Union that sought to work collaboratively with neighbors and the city to help create a “vibrant, dense, and quintessentially urban neighborhood with multiple uses.” 
Club Stables on Boren, early 1900s, a former stable for delivery-wagon horses.
Club Stables on Boren, 2019. Vulcan Real Estate preserved the iconic exterior of this century-old building while renovating it into a conference center for the Amazon.com headquarters.
 
Club Stables on Boren, early 1900s, a former stable for delivery-wagon horses.
Club Stables on Boren, 2019. Vulcan Real Estate preserved the iconic exterior of this century-old building while renovating it into a conference center for the Amazon.com headquarters.
Like everything Paul invested in, a commitment to lasting value was at the forefront of his efforts. His deep concern for the environment and dedication to sustainable development is a perfect example, and the results can be seen today throughout South Lake Union. In fact, Vulcan Real Estate has been recognized as the world’s first Salmon Safe accredited developer, placing an emphasis on site ecology, stormwater management, habitat protection, water conservation, and responsible landscaping.

Over the course of two decades, the area has evolved into a thriving hub that bustles with a diverse mix of retail businesses, technology and knowledge workers, LEED-certified offices, and hundreds of new retail, restaurants, and service providers — all in a pedestrian and transit-friendly, mixed-use neighborhood that’s connected to the downtown core. In fact, Vulcan is the largest private developer of new construction LEED certified projects in Seattle, with 31 such projects and counting. 
More than 75,000 jobs have resulted from Vulcan’s investments in South Lake Union, including construction jobs and union labor, and the neighborhood has attracted some of Washington’s most prominent companies including Amazon (the company’s first urban campus), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Facebook, Google, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Tommy Bahama, and UW Medicine. The Allen Institute is also headquartered there. In addition, Vulcan has developed more than 2,000 housing units in the area, of which 16 percent is affordable housing – a larger commitment than any other developer. 
The Allen Institute was built in 2015 in the heart of South Lake Union. It is Salmon Safe and Leed-Gold certified, and inside scientists tackle large-scale projects in brain science, cell science, and immunology.
 
The Allen Institute was built in 2015 in the heart of South Lake Union. It is Salmon Safe and Leed-Gold certified, and inside scientists tackle large-scale projects in brain science, cell science, and immunology.
The area has a decidedly different feel today because it was designed intentionally, with public and private partners as key collaborators, and centered around sustainable development practices, all to connect people and place — with greener streets, open spaces, a new streetcar, playgrounds, and pocket parks. Working with multiple city agencies and established community groups has created lasting change for the region, driven innovative environmental solutions (such as biofiltration swales), and built momentum for what is a truly 21st century neighborhood. And as a lifelong supporter of the arts, Paul prioritized public access to art by commissioning more than 32 artworks (23 of which are in South Lake Union), and the collection is now featured in a virtual art walk. The neighborhood also celebrates regional culture, anchored by iconic nonprofit institutions including the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and the Center for Wooden Boats. 
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South Lake Union serves as a model to others around the United States, attracting international acclaim, and being designated as one of the country’s seven Innovation Districts by the Brookings Institute for the neighborhood’s emphasis on thoughtful partnerships, connectivity, technology, and community. 

To learn more, visit Vulcan Real Estate's website
Additional
Stories
Space
Exploration
Space
 
Paul pursued making space more accessible in ways that would fuel space innovation — including SpaceShipOne, the Allen Telescope Array, and Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane by wingspan.
Allen Institutes
Science
Allen
Institutes
The Allen Institute and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence lead cutting-edge science and making groundbreaking discoveries in bioscience and artificial intelligence research.
MoPOP
Creativity
MoPOP
 
The Museum of Pop Culture opened in 2000 and over the years evolved into a hands-on museum experience celebrating all forms of popular culture and creative expression.
Seattle Seahawks
Pacific Northwest
Seahawks
 
Paul purchased the Seattle Seahawks NFL franchise in 1997, and since then the team has gone on to make three Super Bowl appearances.
Great Elephant Census
Exploration
Great Elephant
Census
The Great Elephant Census was a massive undertaking to survey the remaining savanna elephants across the African continent. Results of this survey shocked the world into action.
Tech for Good
Science
Tech for
Good
Paul believed technology could be leveraged to protect our planet, wildlife, and resources, and improve the lives of people everywhere.