In its early days, this region was where timber and coal arrived by barge from across the shores of Lake Washington and was further transported to Elliot Bay, where it went on to California and other places along the west coast. In other words, South Lake Union was instrumental in the growth of the city. Sadly, after most of the trees had been cleared, business declined and the neighborhood went through a depression. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his Vulcan Real Estate have rapidly changed the deserted warehouse district into a thriving hi-tech hub. The addition of a trolley system, a new park along the shore of Lake Union, and retail/apartment buildings have, in recent years, given South Lake Union the feeling of a neighborhood again.
It seems that people can’t get enough of South Lake Union these days. Everyone wants to either live here, work here, or come visit. New businesses are opening daily, transportation options are improving, and hip restaurants seem to open almost weekly. Perusing the neighborhood’s website gives a glimpse into what life is like here on a daily basis—tons of events, buzzing press releases about the new amenities, and a great interactive map that shows all of your options for exploring.
The neighborhood is quickly being dominated by local technology companies. Amazon.com’s new headquarters is in the neighborhood, and you’re sure to see thousands of Amazonians roaming the streets at lunch time. Other stalwarts like Microsoft and UW Medicine also have a large presence in the neighborhood, along with plenty of up-and-coming tech startups. (The authors of this site hail from South Lake Union.)
Activities and Attractions
To learn about the history of Lake Union and the surrounding neighborhood, hit up the new Lake Union Park (finished in 2010). Here, you can visit the Center for Wooden Boats, learn how to sail or paddle a dragon boat, or take a class on carving your own wooden boat. Or, just frolic on the grassy knoll for the afternoon.
As far as the other options for dining, shopping, and exploring, it’s really hard to know where to start. One of the best places to start would be along Westlake Avenue. Try the Dahlia Bakery for an amazing breakfast sandwich, or the Row House Café, which is built into a historic house. Once fortified, think about renting a scooter from Scoot About—there’s no better way to explore the neighborhood than on a cute little Vespa!
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Once home to blue-collar workers and a major industrial center of the city, South Lake Union has recently begun its transition into hip urban neighborhood.