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The Durkan Digest: A Generational Opportunity for More Housing, Jobs, Public Spaces, and Safe Transportation Connections

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Seattle has a generational opportunity to make transformational investments in housing, jobs, public spaces, and safe transportation.

It’s the kind of chance that doesn’t come along very often.

On Tuesday, I stood with community members in the heart of South Lake Union to lay out my plan for seizing that chance with the sale of underused, City-owned properties along Mercer Street – and to maximize the benefit for everyone in Seattle.

Since 2014, the City has been discussing the criteria for selling these properties and doing the most with the resources.

After months of negotiations, we have reached an agreement with Alexandria Real Estate Equities, which develops and owns life sciences campuses, on a plan that would generate nearly $300 million in public benefits to the people of Seattle. Those benefits include:

  • 175 units of affordable apartments on-site at no cost to the City, in a true mixed-income building;
  • A $5 million contribution to the City to help fight homelessness;
  • Create great family-wage jobs on-site, both for the people who will construct the buildings on-site and for the people will work in them;
  • With the cash proceeds, a $78 million investment in more housing options across Seattle to address displacement and gentrification, build housing near transit, support affordable homeownership, and help low- and middle-income homeowners build backyard cottages;
  • A new, 30,000 square-foot community center located on-site in the heart of South Lake Union, built at no cost to the City, that will be operated by Seattle Parks & Recreation with free rent for up to 40 years;
  • Tens of millions of dollars of investments in transportation safety projects, including: $16.7 million of the proceeds to invest in new and planned projects to improve safety and improve options for getting around Seattle. And – at no cost to the City – extending 8th Avenue as a pedestrian right-of-way through the site, and extending the two-way protected bike lane on the north side of Mercer Street between 9th Avenue and Dexter.
Mayor Jenny Durkan speaking at the Mercer Properties press conference with sign in the background reading "Nearly $300 million in public benefits."

Read about the full plan here.

With new affordable housing in South Lake Union, new initiatives to combat displacement and the creation of new housing opportunities, this plan for the Mercer properties and the proceeds from the sale is a key component of my “Housing Seattle Now” initiative that I announced on July 24.

I believe that years from now, people will look back at this chance and say we seized an incredible opportunity to make our City better by reinvesting these proceeds directly in communities across Seattle.

I look forward to working with the City Council in the coming weeks to deliver these investments in housing, jobs, great public spaces, and transportation projects across Seattle – and to detail the plans for those investments in my budget that I will announce this fall.

As always, please continue to write me at, reach out via Twitter and Facebook, and stay up-to-date on the work we’re doing for the people of Seattle on my blog.


Mayor Jenny A. Durkan's Signature

This blog post is an excerpt from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s weekly newsletter. If would like more content like this, and a weekly recap of the exciting things happening in the City of Seattle, you can subscribe here.