The Era of Multifamily Megaprojects
Remember when 300 units was a big multifamily infill project, and Harbor Steps' 759 was the local record? When grander visions weren't worth the risk?
No longer. Today, a "big" multifamily project in the Seattle metro is 1,000+ units, and even that's getting common. Some are twin towers on single blocks. Others are whole campuses, often mixed with other primary uses.
The Many So Far
Whether the trend makes you giddy or a little frightened, the list is remarkable. Here are some projects with at least 1,000 multifamily units, with the lead developer or current owner:
Completed or Underway:
· Capstone Partners, Esterra Park, Redmond
· Point Ruston LLC, Point Ruston, Tacoma
· Seattle Housing Authority, Yesler Terrace, Seattle
· Onni Group, Onni South Lake Union, Seattle
· Westbank, 1200 Stewart St, Seattle
· Landmark Properties, The Standard, Seattle
· University of Washington, dormitory program, Seattle
Potential Near-Term Starts:
· Concord Pacific / HB, Seattle House (restart), Seattle
· Simon Property Group, Northgate Station, Seattle
· Onni Group, Onni 606, Bellevue
In Concept or Planned:
· Bay West Development, Fry's site, Renton
· Green Partners, Molbak's site, Woodinville
· Vector, Lakepointe, Kenmore
· Everett Housing Authority, Baker Heights, Everett
· Merlone Geier Partners, Northline Village, Lynnwood
· Pinnacle Development, Pinnacle Bellevue North and South, Bellevue
· Wig Properties, East Main Village, Bellevue
· Unico, Longacres site, Tukwila
· Seattle Housing Authority, Northgate Apartments site, Seattle
· Crescent Heights, 701 Fourth Ave, Seattle
· Concord Pacific, 1901 Minor Ave, Seattle
Other Sites Planning Housing With 1,000+ Potential
· Goodwill, Dearborn St site, Seattle
· University of Washington / Sound Transit, Mt. Baker Station TOD site, Seattle
· Sound Transit, Federal Way TOD site, Federal Way
· Nelson Legacy Group, Downtown Redmond properties, Redmond
That's not counting the Westbank/Archdiocese properties on First Hill, the potential revival of Point Wells, or separate projects developers like Vulcan and Holland have clustered in certain neighborhoods. I've also omitted master plans in progress like the King County civic campus.
More to Come?
The trend is unsurprising because housing demand is deep, there's limited room for new supply, we have little appetite for major cost-saving measures that would limit future rents (like mass upzones), and both developers and their financial partners are willing to dive in with both feet.
Further, even the largest project is a small fraction of our multifamily production. The three-county metro permitted 20,500 residences in buildings of five or more units in 2021, and 30,967 units total (a little more than recent norms). CoStar says we're currently building 25,357 rental apartments alone. We might build 100,000 multifamily units in the next five years (possibly helped by higher interest rates, which make buying harder). A 1,000-unit project would be 1% of that.
I believe the 1,000+ trend will continue as long as the region keeps growing. With limits on outward development, infill sites are expensive and the pressure is on to use them intensely. The low parking ratios allowed by urban sites make high housing counts easier. Any sizeable mini-mall site with urban zoning will be a candidate, if you can pry it loose that is. A small number of potential Downtown sites remain as well.
If anything, future proposals will be more intense than the current ones, with highrises penciling in more areas, periodic upzones per the State requirement to provide 20 years of capacity, and ever-higher land prices because we'll always be behind the upzone curve. Check out Vancouver, BC, if you're curious about super-mega projects.
This will affect other sectors too—retail, hotel, office, healthcare, and education developers will compete for the same land. They'll favor stacked, land-efficient concepts, and often mix these uses with housing.
We'll still need those 300-unit projects too of course!
Let me know if you need help with an A/E/C/RE writing or research project.