Region Of Boom | KUOW News and Information

Region Of Boom

2017 is the year the record books will show there are 4 million people living here. But we don't need to wait for the official count: Person Four Million is thought to be among us right now.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

In case you hadn't noticed, our region has been growing fast. 

By this June, a major milestone will be official: The Puget Sound region’s population will be more than 4 million people. 

KUOW’s Region of Boom team is playing welcoming committee to the new guy, whoever that may be.


Drivers wait to cross Mercer Street
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Traffic engineers have a nickname for the years 2019 to 2021, when a slew of new megaprojects will get underway in downtown Seattle around the same time. They call it “The Period of Maximum Constraint.” Translated into plainspeak, it means during those three years, we’ll be up the creek in a leaky canoe without a paddle.


Inside the Tulalip Casino near Marysville
Flickr Photo/simone.brunozzi (CC BY-SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/54xrxm

Growth is happening in many industries across the region. In Marysville for example the Tulalip Casino is now the center of shopping and housing developments.

It's part of the reason Marysville is the fastest-growing big city in Western Washington. But the role of tribal casinos is larger than that.

Relics collected or created by William Shelton, stored at the Hibulb Cultural Center
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols/Posey Gruener

Wayne Williams struggles to tell the story, because of his health. He speaks in bursts, between coughing fits and gulps of orange juice. 


Yes, there was operatic singing here once. Marysville bought the city's historic Opera House from a private owner. Now it's a place for jazz nights, craft classes, weddings and parties.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Seattle’s growth is transforming the cities at its edges. Residents in these growing bedroom communities want things to do when they’re home.

Marysville was just 9,000 people 30 years ago. Now’s it’s over 60,000, and the fastest-growing big city in the Western Washington. It also has a broken-up downtown and a dead industrial waterfront. 

Developments are popping up all over Marysville.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Marysville is the fastest growing big city in Western Washington.

In part that’s due to people leaving the Seattle housing market to find more affordable housing in a place a commutable distance away.


Elizabeth Mehlbrech lives in Marysville, where she finds the rent for new apartments more affordable than other places closer to Seattle. Mehlbrech manages Fitness Evolution, near The Lodge Apartments, where she also lives.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The farther people flee from the major metro areas, the cheaper the housing. But there’s only so far they can run, because there’s an imaginary wall that stops development from sprawling all over the landscape, a wall that protects the less developed green places that make the region beautiful. 

It’s called the urban growth boundary. Beyond it, developers face more restrictions. 

Just inside the boundary, Marysville, Washington, is growing fast as existing rents trend higher and higher. For those who can't afford it, there's nowhere left to go.


Trains running through Marysville can be up six minutes long, which doesn't sound like a lot unless you are constantly getting stuck in their traffic backup.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Donald Wilson should be eating breakfast with his friends at the Tulalip Casino. But Wilson is not eating breakfast. He’s sitting in his car, at a railroad crossing.

It's a situation he faces just about every other day when he's just trying to get from one side of town to the other. "Every time we run into the train," he said, "it’s like, ‘God darn it!’”


Eileen Donoher lives in Snohomish and commutes to the UW Medical Center. She has three small children. 'We can make it work,' she says.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

The Seattle area is getting more expensive. People are finding new ways to adapt, like moving farther away for affordable housing.

But what happens when you still need to work in the city — say, at a hospital in Seattle’s core?

State Representative John Lovick in his car. The former state trooper and Snohomish County Executive offered to drive a reporter around in the early morning to demonstrate a particular form of suffering felt by commuters North of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Bill Radke speaks with Carolyn Adolph about how — and why — she ended up stuck in traffic with state Representative John Lovick.

Amanda Batterson of Skip's Everett Towing has her doubts about shoulder driving, which would provide congestion relief to commuters living north of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Washington state plans to open up parts of Interstate 5 to shoulder driving. It begins early summer, when the state will let buses drive part of the shoulder south of Everett.


This heat map produced by real estate company Trulia shows the commute times for Seattle residents. The warmer the color, the longer the commute away from Seattle's core.
Screenshot with permission from Trulia

About 236 people move to the Seattle area every day, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council.

This means more people driving to their jobs, some more than an hour. About 100,000 people commute to the region from Whidbey Island, Aberdeen, Mount Vernon and beyond, according to the regional council.

Housing construction in Marysville.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

In Cora Milholland's lifetime, Marysville has grown from under 2,000 residents to over 60,000.

Since the time he arrived in the 1990s, Loren Cook says the population has tripled.

Six new developments have sprung up on all sides of  Nichole Cleland since 2004, when she moved to a new development in Marysville. 

Ken Cage, president of the Marysville Historical Society, says important parts of Marysville history were bulldozed to make room for this mall.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Marysville is the fastest growing big city in western Washington because there’s space to build housing. But there aren’t many jobs in Marysville. So one in six people end up commuting more than an hour to work.

It's a bedroom community that failed to make itself over in the 1980s. Now it's trying again.


Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson stands in front of the property he wanted opened up to development.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

As you head east to Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90, lush green forests line the freeway. 

How do we all thrive in a Region of Boom?

Oct 14, 2016
Domonique Meeks cites the power of storytelling at Region of Boom Live.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

Based on KUOW's series on growth in our region, Region of Boom Live brought together a wide array of speakers to answer the question: how can we create a community where all can thrive?

Speakers were asked to present in the PechaKucha format, where each presenter shows 20 images for 20 seconds each, with images advancing automatically as they speak. 

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Sound Transit's newest light rail station opened Saturday at Angle Lake, just south of Sea-Tac International Airport, to live music, dance troupes and protests.

Celestino Rocha, a.k.a. The Fish Killer, has tattoos that say Fear No Fish. He takes fishing in lakes like Angle Lake very seriously and will teach you if you ask.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

A new light rail station opens at Seatac’s Angle Lake this weekend. 

A lot of train riders are asking: What’s Angle Lake?

It’s a lake in Seatac that’s shaped like an angle. There’s a park there, and if you want, you can walk there in your swim suit from the train. The park has a checkered past and likely a brilliant future.


Riley Neiders and her horse Homer attract the attention of Rainier Beach resident Lamaya Barron.
KUOW Photo/Matt Mills McKnight

For the past few weeks, we’ve been following the path of gentrification from the Central District into South Seattle. As land values go up, people start to feel the pressure to leave.

That’s just starting to happen in Rainier Beach. It’s a community that’s home to a large minority population – and what you could argue is Seattle’s last big family farm.


Anna Ponder teaches a dance called stepping at the Steppers Unite Dance Studio - built in her garage. Ponder dances here with her student, Askia Heru.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Gentrification: It’s what happens when the people living in a low-income neighborhood get pushed out by new people with more money.

But some long-time residents manage to stay in gentrifying neighborhoods and thrive, like Anna Ponder, who teaches a dance style called stepping in Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood.

Bama Chester and Patsy Tyler have long been fans of the Red Apple grocery store in the Central District, which has held up against the last decade of extreme gentrification.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The Red Apple in the Central District doesn’t look like much when you drive by – maybe just another grocery store in an old strip mall.

But it’s at the heart of the Central Area, and the African-American community that once dominated this neighborhood.

Moe Toure runs Toure Apparel in a strip mall on one of Vulcan Real Estate's 23rd Avenue properties.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

For years, the Central District didn’t get much investment. But recently, the city poured money into infrastructure improvements on 23rd Avenue. Then Vulcan bought a city block of real estate along the route. 

The real estate giant is planning 40,000 square feet of retail space and 570 apartments. They’re also planning a second development across the street.


Jennifer Weitman, left, and Carrie Anderson, right, outside one of their teenage haunts at Totem Lake Mall: Denny's Pet World, now closed. The mall is being readied for redevelopment.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Malls are facing trouble everywhere. But Totem Lake Mall in Kirkland is in a category of its own.  It’s a zombie: an undead mall with just a few remaining businesses. People have been trying to revitalize it for years.

And finally, there’s action. The mall has been bought by a California developer who is reenvisioning it as a place where people can shop, work, play and live. It's a big change from the mall's former identity as a hangout for young people.


At the South Lake Union Discovery Center, a Vulcan guide apologized that the model was so out of date. It hadn't been updated in a couple years.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Seattle took in over 50,000 new people in the last five years. Suzanne Offen is one of them.

Before moving here, she had family and a comfortable job in Brooklyn, New York.


The lobby at Exeter House, which was built as a luxury, live-in hotel in the 1920s.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Exeter House in downtown Seattle was built as an apartment hotel for elegant living in the 1920s. It was part of a construction boom downtown at the time.

Realtor Kelley Meister says about 90 percent of the homes being built today are big boxes.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

When four townhomes went up at the end of an old street in Ballard, the neighbors called the new residents “townies.” It wasn’t meant as an insult. But it wasn’t something you’d say to their faces, either.

Jan Young on the Cross Kirkland Corridor trail. Young argues that it's cheaper and more effective to put transit on I-405, leaving this trail for non-motorized use in Kirkland.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

All over the region, undeveloped open spaces face enormous pressure. In Kirkland, the pressure for more mass transit is butting up against green space that filled a spiritual need some Kirkland residents didn’t even know they had.

A view of Seattle's future: Income tax and apartment construction?
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

We have been collecting audience responses about changes they are seeing in the Seattle region as part of our Region of Boom project.  

You sent us hundreds of responses detailing the frustrations of a booming city and how the physical shifts in and around Seattle are affecting your life in the region.

Tiny rooms where seminarians once lived at Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore, Washington. The state bought the land in 1977 but loses money every year on the old building. A developer wants to revamp it into a hotel and spa.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Saint Edward State Park is a swath of forest north of Seattle almost four times the size of Disneyland.

It was once a seminary, and now the state wants to give a building and some acreage to a developer to morph into a privately owned hotel and spa. 

Lois Harris opened the Vogue Coiffure Beauty Salon on 23rd Avenue in 1966. Road construction there has put her in the worst financial situation she's seen yet.
KUOW Photo / Joshua McNichols

Central District business owners will get a chance to tell city officials about the problems on 23rd Avenue on Tuesday. They say a big road project there has scared away their customers. They want a financial bailout, but the city says no.

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