South Lake Union, known to some as “Amazonland,” has every amenity a tech employee could ask for. Bars, sit-down restaurants, take out restaurants, organic grocery stores, retail of all types, yoga, barre, float spas – you name it. However, upon googling “South Lake Union Retail”, most of the hits are retail spaces available for rent.
Though South Lake Union has just been approved for an upzone (according to Partnership for Sustainable Communities), which would allow for towers dedicating a large portion of units to affordable housing, the current density of the neighborhood is 8.66k people per square mile, ranking 28th on Statistical Atlas’s list of density of Seattle neighborhoods. The problem the area faces currently is that the ratio of offices to residential units is high, creating dead zones on weekends and evenings. The retail spaces that are successful provide amenities to daytime workers or people living in specified vicinities to market-rate residential buildings.
Though the purpose of retail space minimum requirements is deeply rooted in theories of effective urban planning and design based on user patterns, a market saturation is not the solution. If affordable housing is to increase in the area, high-end grocery stores, restaurants, and bars will serve to divide classes further. Instead, more creative solutions to a post-retail street space need to be a focus of developers and designers in order to enrich the community, integrate demographics and serve as an activated public environment.