Addimando: Seattle GPLEX Exhilarating & Thought-Provoking
The GPLEX visit to Seattle was simultaneously exhilarating and thought provoking. Coming from Philadelphia where we have just crossed the Red Sea of managing decline to managing (some) growth, we were thrust into the hyper-loop of Amazonia. All of a sudden dogs outnumber people, strollers are nowhere to be seen, construction cranes outnumber taxis, buildings are all named after insider Amazonian jokes, and everyone is a well-heeled hipster sipping a latte.
Which begs the question of what happened to Seattle’s soul? Well apparently when a City grows its population by 25%+ in less than a decade, and even if almost all of those new residents has more than a living wage job, there are innumerable first, second and third order effects. Native residents and the middle/working class gets pushed further out of the core and further away from their American dream, homelessness remains persistent, and the entire social safety net that underlies the New Deal goes into a tailspin. Oh and the traffic gets really bad too - so bad that voters imposed a $54B tax on themselves to fix the problems over the next 25 years. (That’s not a typo, $54 billion.)
Even so, is it that such rapid prosperity has seemingly done so little for so many people in Seattle? The Seattle Story began 150 years ago but the current chapter is such a paradigm shift that only time will tell if Seattle becomes a model for a new economy company town where prosperity is shared, or if this ends more like the Apocalypse of Amazon with a much more uncertain and uncharted outcome. Those of us from Philly came away with some lessons and ideas that we hope to bring to bear back home, but more than anything I find myself hoping that Seattle and its people come out on top - and not upside down - from this epoch.
Leo Addimando is Managing Partner of the Alterra Property Group