Nearly 1,000 of Seattle’s business and community leaders gathered this week at the Westin Hotel in Downtown Seattle for the 2013 State of Downtown Economic Forum, the Downtown Seattle Association’s (DSA) annual event reporting on the condition of the Downtown economy.
Themed “The New Urban,” this year’s forum examined the strengths and weaknesses of 2012 while addressing Downtown’s competitive advantage of urban amenities, the emerging trend of businesses and institutions locating in urban settings, smart approaches to density and the importance of communications technologies in Downtown’s future.
In her State of the Downtown address, Downtown Seattle Association President & CEO Kate Joncas highlighted Downtown’s successes in 2012 – including the residential development boom, the largest employment increase in the region, major brands choosing to locate Downtown and a thriving arts and entertainment sector – as well as the elements which need attention to help maintain Downtown Seattle’s competitive advantage in the years to come.
“Downtown Seattle’s residential development is off the charts right now. We have more units under construction than any other metro area outside of Houston, Texas and our employment numbers are stronger than they’ve been in years,” stated Joncas. “We’re moving in the right direction, but we must continue to develop an environment which attracts and nurtures this growth. We need to ensure that Downtown is family friendly, which includes developing a Downtown public school and rezoning South Lake Union to support the kind of density that will attract families.”
“We have an obligation to ensure that we’re taking a smart approach to our advantages over suburban areas – steps like improving the pedestrian experience, preserving transit and making Downtown Seattle the region’s preferred destination to live, work, shop and play. These are top priorities.”
The forum’s featured speaker, AT&T Senior Vice President Jeff Bradley highlighted the important roles that emerging technologies are playing in urban centers and this sector’s impressive growth in Washington state.
“The economic impact of app development in Washington is $2.6 billion each year and the app workforce is growing at such a rapid rate, with Washington having four times the national average of app economy jobs, according to the CTIA and App Developers Alliance,” said Bradley.
“From content management to everyday entertainment, mobile technology has changed the way we live and the way we work. To advance technologies it’s imperative that providers and local governments work together on elements like infrastructure and Seattle has demonstrated a willingness to do exactly that.”
Keynote Speaker and former Chief Planner of Vancouver, B.C., Brent Toderian said that “Seattle has a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on ‘density done well’ but you have to know what it means and you have to have the will to achieve it.”
State of Downtown also produced an Economic Profile for 2013 full of information on Downtown’s economic health.