- Amazon’s unparalleled growth over the last decade has changed its hometown of Seattle.
- That growth is most apparent in Seattle’s downtown where nonstop development, much of it driven by Amazon, has transformed the area into hub of tech offices and luxury real estate.
- Small businesses, like downtown sex shop Fantasy Unlimited, have made efforts to cater to the company with Amazon employee-specific discounts.
Amazon is often said to have swallowed Seattle, forever transforming the city in its image. While that may be an exaggeration, head downtown and it certainly feels like it.
Downtown Seattle, specifically the neighbourhoods of South Lake Union and Denny Triangle, have been transformed by Amazon’s decision in 2007 to locate its urban campus in the area.
Development by Amazon, as well as the Paul Allen-owned Vulcan and a number of other developers over the last decade has turned a sea of parking lots, warehouses, and motels into gleaming skyscrapers, luxury rental towers, tech offices, and restaurants.
Many Seattleites have taken to calling the neighbourhood Amazonia, its 40,000+ workforce Amazombies, and the Amazon-driven changes to the city Amageddon.
That domination has meant that the city – from city council to the smallest businesses – has to cater to Amazon to get in on the boom.
Nowhere was this dynamic more apparent than on the corner of Westlake Avenue and 7th Avenue in South Lake Union, where sex shop Fantasy Unlimited and strip club Little Darlings are trying to weather downtown Seattle’s prosperity bomb by appealing directly to Amazonians.
Case in point:
A store clerk at Fantasy Unlimited told Business Insider that the promotion has been around for at least the last two years, and that a number of Amazon employees have come in to use it.
“It works for them, it works for us,” she said.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a Little Darlings signboard invites Amazonians to “Come in after work.”
When Amazon decided to move downtown, the city paid the majority of $US668 million in infrastructure improvements for the area, including a streetcar line for the neighbourhood. Last October, a number of city council members signed a joint letter essentially apologizing if it made the $US546 billion-dollar e-commerce giant feel “unwelcome” or left out of “regional decisions.”
Since 2010, Seattle’s downtown neighbourhoods have seen an 18% population growth, bringing the current population to over 70,000, the Downtown Seattle Association reported last year. Population growth in Seattle overall is at 10% for the same period.
While many factors may be at play – Google, Facebook, Uber, and others are reportedly setting up shop downtown – there is little doubt that Amazon is the main driver. Amazon has been on a hiring spree for the last decade, growing from 5,000 Seattle-area employees in 2010 to more than 40,000. It has plans to grow to 55,000 in the next several years.
Seattle has benefitted from the partnership.
Washington’s economy grew 3.7% in 2016, two and half times the national rate. Other measures like wages, rent, venture capital, and concentration of STEM jobs (science, tech, engineering, and maths) are among the highest in the US.
But residents complain of skyrocketing rent and housing prices, gridlocked traffic, a homelessness crisis, and deepening inequality.
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