Industry in Seattle often talks about how they are facing their own kind of gentrification. Rising property values, encroaching pressure for different land uses, and choking transportation all loom as reasons for industrial businesses to relocate out of the city. This research explores this phenomenon of industrial gentrification through a case study of Seattle’s most prominent industrial area: the SODO (“South Of Downtown”) neighborhood. My primary research question asks what the perception and reality of the state of industrial land designation and industrial land use gentrification in Seattle is. Secondary research questions involve asking how industrial land designation and industrial land use can be defined in Seattle, what percentage of land is zoned industrial in the SODO neighborhood, and what percentage of the land use is considered industrial in the SODO neighborhood. Finally, subsequent effects on freight transportation and goods movement will be considered. By surveying actual industrial land use compared to industrially-zoned land, one can conclude whether industry’s complaints are accurate and whether attempts to protect industrial land uses are working. Literature details cases that encapsulate the industrial gentrification debate and Seattle has undertaken many studies of its industrial land. Methods involve a case study approach coupled with a field survey. The survey area chosen is the SODO neighborhood, which is part of the locally and regionally-designated Duwamish Manufacturing/Industrial Center. Industrial designation is defined as any of the four types of industrial zoning in the City of Seattle. Industrial land use is defined with the help of the Land Based Classification Standards’ Function dimension, with the following subcategories considered industrial: manufacturing, warehouse, storage yard, marine terminal, railroad, and utility. Results show that over 99% of the study area is designated industrial. After classification of each parcel in the study area, 62% of the study area’s parcels, or 85% of the land area, contain actual industrial land use. When land intensive uses such as marine terminals and railroads are removed from consideration, the percent of industrial land area is only 42%. The conclusion of this study shows that 1) the narrative of industrial gentrification in Seattle is not as universal as initially perceived, 2) being designated as industrial land by zoning is not a surefire way to achieve what some would consider actual industrial land use, 3) actions undertaken by the City in the 2000s—namely increasing the size limits on non-industrial land uses in industrial zoning—have been effective at keeping SODO industrial, and 4) the question of whether Seattle is losing industry and industrial land rests on how one defines and perceives those terms. While much of SODO’s land area is still industrial, market forces and trends are drawing more non-traditional land uses to SODO, such as boutique manufacturing, breweries and distilleries, event venues, and commercial offices and retail stores. Examples are prominent and give the perception of industrial loss even if, technically, much of SODO is still designated industrial.
Tomporowski, David (2019). A Different Kind of Gentrification: Seattle and its Relationship with Industrial Land. University of Washington Master's Degree Thesis.