Jun 29, 2023 - Development

Taller buildings could be coming to downtown Seattle

A view from up high of Third Avenue, with the Ross Dress for Less store at left and pedestrians crossing the road at a crosswalk in the middle, in front of a bus, and buildings on the right side framing the picture.
Third Avenue in downtown Seattle is shown in March 2022. Photo: David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As part of a wide-ranging plan to boost the number of people living downtown, Mayor Bruce Harrell is proposing to let certain downtown blocks have residential towers more than twice as tall as currently allowed.

Driving the news: The mayor's office unveiled a plan Wednesday that would increase the maximum height limit for residential towers along Third Avenue from Union Street to Stewart Street, raising the height cap from 170 feet to 440 feet.

  • The increased height limit would also apply to the blocks of Pike and Union streets stretching from Third Avenue to Fourth Avenue, city officials said.

Plus: The maximum height limit would increase to 460 feet if developers include an educational center or school in the building. That’s aimed partly at ensuring Seattle Public Schools can locate a school downtown in the future, Tim Burgess, the mayor's director of strategic initiatives, told reporters this week.

The big picture: Getting more residents downtown is part of the mayor's larger Downtown Activation Plan, which includes proposals to remove litter and graffiti; crack down on drug dealing; make it easier for food trucks to set up shop; and find new uses for vacant downtown office spaces.

  • Future efforts include providing incentives like gift cards to people who attend drug treatment; improving street and sidewalk lighting; establishing a walk-in mental health crisis care center; and adding an opioid overdose recovery center.

What's next: Officials in the mayor's office said they are currently drafting legislation to implement the downtown rezoning plan, which would have to be approved by the City Council.


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