Urban Upgrade

Experimental Innovation: Kremwerk in South Lake Union

The rise of the creative class in South Lake Union proves that the experiment in urban planning is working.

By Josh Feit August 25, 2014 Published in the September 2014 issue of Seattle Met

Sitting down on the dark wood bench in one of the small corridors of Kremwerk, you can feel the warm sine waves from the ambient dance music that’s playing on the other side of the concrete walls. Since February, this subterranean club just south of South Lake Union has welcomed young DJs to the neighborhood, where they trade mixes that lean experimental. It’s a sharp contrast to the decidedly nonexperimental prefab condos parked around Amazon just a few blocks away.

Someone should tell the Brookings Institute. A May 2014 report from the DC-based think tank hyped South Lake Union and a few other renaissance neighborhoods across the country as exemplars of what they call innovation districts: clusters of businesses plunked down in the heart of the city, mashed up with housing, transit, restaurants, and shops. In other words, the antithesis of Microsoft’s isolated, idyllic campus or the suburban strip mall office space. 

But the fuddy-duddies at Brookings missed the innovation going on downstairs at Kremwerk. Because while SLU deserves the spotlight, it’s not just for the UW research facilities, Vulcan development, or tech employees who moved there. It’s for the way those changes have ushered in creative youth culture. You know your urban planning designs are succeeding when twenty-somethings are dancing nearby.

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