PubliPola: South Lake Union
Our tunnel poll results are in...and What's going on in South Lake Union?
The results are in from yesterday's poll on the tunnel. More than 700 of you voted, and the final numbers were not good for the tunnel—and were damn good for former Mayor Mike McGinn, if he's thinking of running for office again: 60.73 percent said "It's come to this; let's scrap it" vs. 39.27 percent said "We've come this far; let's go for it."
But enough on the tunnel.
For today's poll, I'm wearing my Pedestrian Chronicles hat. Over the holiday weekend, on Saturday night, I checked out Kremwerk, a new club in the no-man's land between Capitol Hill and South Lake Union. I walked over from Lower Queen Anne, heading south off Mercer onto Terry through the heart of SLU.
Mixed-use should use time as a metric, and we shouldn't count SLU as a success if the neighborhood clocks out at 5 pm.
After reading about the new club in the Stranger, I'd given the place a PubliCola Like (sight unseen) on theoretical grounds, encouraged that a cool music club—as opposed to the pre-fab urbanism popping up around South Lake Union—was actually taking root in the vicinity of Cornish and Amazon. When new clubs like Kremwerk start working, you know the neighborhood plan is finally working too.
The club was fine—a little too slick for a subterranean dance scene (concrete walls, wooden nooks, expensive drinks, gentlemanly hosts in ties)—but the music was warm and innovative and the crowd was happy and earnest, laying waste to the pretentious LA vibe. (It also wasn't super-crowded, seeming more like a small dance party among friends sharing mixtapes, which benighted the place with a secret handshake feel rather than an overrun frat party feel.)
My ultimate mission, though, wasn't about the club. It was really about testing my theory that South Lake Union had been transformed—that all the overt placemaking (sorry!) had actually succeeded.
(A 2011 jobs and revenues report plus a 2012 summary of those numbers—like 1,600 new jobs gained in SLU between 2004 and 2010—is the most recent hard data the city's got about the SLU neighborhood; though, the 2012 summary notes that they expected 7,000 new jobs between March and 2010 and the end of 2011 based on Amazon's real estate acquisitions. From reading this stuff, I also learned that Amazon's revenues were $74.5 billion in 2013.)
But is all this data translating into city life beyond the sensation that you're walking through a pastel-colored landscape architecture rendering during lunch hour? After all, the goal of all this urbanist lingo isn't to recreate the 20th century downtown model where things are swinging during the day, but dead at night; mixed-use should also use time as a metric, and we shouldn't count SLU as a success if the neighborhood clocks out at 5.
My hope that Kermwerk's emergence on the outskirts of SLU was some sort of signal that legitimate nightlife had come to SLU turned out to be wrong. Yes, walking through South Lake Union (this was 9:45 on a Saturday night), I noted that spots like Cactus were busy, but I had the empty streets and hushed facades all to myself.
After I left the club, I walked east to Capitol Hill. It was swarming, which made me long even more for a vibrant, rather than Vegas, night time out in Seattle. I'm still pinning my hopes on outposts like Kremwerk.