South Lake Union: More Cranes Than Kids?

Aug 14, 2014

Credit KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

When asked to describe South Lake Union in a word, KUOW’s Bill Radke chose “treacherous.”

“I rarely go to SLU so I forget it’s no longer deserted. Intersections that used to be a rolling stop now have cyclists and dogs and cycling dogs and chatting friends who just go!” he explained.

Our Facebook followers took a similar tack: unrecognizable, permaconstruction, progress. One person cheated with two words, but it helps encapsulate a lot of frustration: Mercer mess!

South Lake Union has had its growing pains along its way to becoming a commerce hub. It’s a neighborhood that is trying to define itself.

St. Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral in 1953 and 2014

St. Spiridon Cathedral (400 Yale Ave. N.) held its first recorded service on September 18, 1895. Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives and Isolde Raftery/KUOW.

One issue is that this part of the city is alive during the day, but much more vacant at night. The Puget Sound Regional Council estimates that there are about 35,000 people working in the SLU area. According to the last census, with the help of the City of Seattle, only about 3,800 people actually live in the neighborhood.

One of the marquee employers is, of course, Amazon. The company told us that about a fifth of their employees live in the same zip code as their SLU headquarters.  This presumably does not include the hundreds of dogs they said come in with their owners to work.

Listen to KUOW's live broadcast from SLU, August 15

Those who live in SLU tend to be a younger crowd based off the census. A whopping 75 percent of residents are between 22–50 years old, compared with 56 percent of Seattle as a whole.

The median age is 3.5 years younger in SLU. Lest you think that kids are skewing the number, there were only 158 people under the age of 18 listed in the 2010 census. We don’t have the numbers, but sometimes it seems like there are more cranes than kids.

Otherwise, it’s just another slice of Seattle: a little bit nautical and a lot techy. It’s a great place for a walk to admire the lake, but please, look both ways for the trolley.