UW Runstad Real Estate Center Fellowship

2017 UW Runstad Fellowship travels to Australia to study equitable development.

Exploring issues of affordability, livability, and racial-social inclusion to inform Seattle’s best practices for the next 100 years.

Real estate that empowers
Seattle’s growth has created the third highest median income in the country, increased the supply of housing by 12,000 units per year for the last four years, and attracted diverse companies and their talent to the region faster and longer than any other period in history.  The growth has also brought unintended negative consequences to our neighborhoods, creating displacement, cultural diaspora and significant barriers to new development, reducing affordability.  As a result, our growth is neither equitable nor sustainable.  Without new models of development, we run the risk of outpacing San Francisco, Manhattan and other cities which struggle with limited supply of housing, skyrocketing costs of living, lack of socio-economic diversity, and inequity.

If density is a requisite for sustainable growth, and we know that socio-economic diversity increases health, creativity and productivity for everyone, then we must find more equitable and inclusive development models. 

FIX founder, Shannon Loew is one of the two professional Affiliate Fellows selected annually by the UW Runstad Center for Real Estate.  Together with Martha Barkman (Mack Urban), Rosey Atkinson, Rachel Berney, and Gundula Proksch, the Fellowship team traveled to Sydney and Melbourne to study projects, policies and organizations worth emulating with the goal of developing specific recommendations on how we might inform Puget Sound’s regional growth.  While plans like the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan focus on equitable city growth, it is limited Seattle and has a limited time-horizon.  The 2017 Fellowship focused on development strategies and regional solutions that consider the next 100 years of growth.  The team explored solutions across all aspects of the industry, including policy, project delivery methods, organizational and legal structures, financing mechanisms, and programmatic ideas.  Areas focus were:

  1. Affordability – cost of housing and everyday needs including food and services
  2. Livability – access to transportation, job opportunities, open space, factors of health and wellness
  3. Racial-Social inclusion – displacement and participation in long-term wealth creation

The 2017 Runstad Affiliate Fellows presented their findings at the HUB in Pioneer Square in September 2017, at the University of Washington in November.  They will also present at the 2018 NAOIP meeting in January.  Download the PDF here (large file).

An original book of Seattle neighborhoods

FIX publishes an original book of Seattle statistics and cultural influencers.

FIX has produced this work of research on our city’s real estate market and collection of neighborhoods as a way of better understanding communities and highlighting impacts of growth.

View or download the book here.

Mining quantitative data for qualitative experience and values
In 2010, Seattle was the second most vital city in the country after New York City, as an index of per capita income, college attainment, and poverty levels.  Our metropolitan area had one of the nation’s largest GDP’s at nearly one quarter of a trillion dollars.  And we were among the top 10 fastest to recover from the Great Recession.  We outperformed national averages in both large and small scale business with more than 20% of our companies having fewer than 20 people and the University of Washington receiving the second most sponsored funding of any public university with nearly $1.5B.  And we had growth in old and new economies with manufacturing employment up 11% versus a 5% decrease nationally.  These are among the many reasons that Seattle was and continues to be an extraordinary growth market.  And when you consider the constraints of Seattle’s geography, with limited land area hemmed in by waterways and extreme topography, it becomes clear why our real estate market has been as explosive as it’s been.  But there’s more to Seattle’s appeal than the numbers…

 FIX created this original research as a way of better understanding our city and highlighting the tensions that come with growth.  The book reanalyzes census tract data by reconfiguring it to the actual boundaries of our neighborhoods and identifies the cultural influencers to provide a more nuanced look at each of our neighborhoods at one point in time.

Zoom in on the neighborhoods that make up this market, and you’ll see the qualities and complexities of Seattle’s real estate market — the collection of people and places with unique demographics and cultural nuances that make places distinct and attractive.  These are the hole-in-the-walls, the music venues and street art, and the youth associations that have been taking kids off the street one baseball or chess game at a time.  These are the individual cultural magnets that draw our interest to places, creating demand stay put, to line-up, move-in and build-up.  These are the reason there’s tension in our growth, putting at odds the desire to preserve and protect unique experiences with the value and instinct to share and replicate those experiences.

FIX’s Role
FIX created this self-published book of Seattle neighborhoods as a way of understanding our city better and articulating this tension.  The work is a survey of neighborhoods – 50 in total – along with a few outliers in the nearby metropolitan area.  It contains original demographic analysis that re-maps US Census tracts by Seattle neighborhood by cross-tabulating the data geo-spatially.  It has historical research on the arts and culture of each community and a development survey of every neighborhood.  It defines the cultural magnets and social influencers that provide each area with its character and personality.  The book has provided our clients with a sense of how we go about appreciating place, blending quantitative analysis, geography and an understanding of the personal, more qualitative character that all adds up to more than the simple sum of its parts.

View or download the book here.

A new GIS tool to understand neighborhoods

Mapping more diverse data to value community and identify need

FIX builds custom geospatial database, layering data from US Census, King County Assessor, and City of Seattle to guide development goals and understand the complexity of community

A searchable geospatial database to support impact development goals
The real estate market is crowded with providers of sales data like Loopnet, Redfin, and Costar, but few if any are able to marry their data with more complex location-based information like  geography, permitting, and neighborhood demographics.  Current providers are oriented to think like brokers, focusing on statistics relevant to sales and comparables.  They don’t provide information more relevant to community builders or developers who might want more intelligent insights to support forward-thinking development goals for specific projects, clients or tenants.  For example, none could provide heat maps on likely minority displacement like, how many NC-zoned sites are appraised below market 75% or greater within neighborhoods that have a majority of minority populations?  Or information that might suggest assemblage opportunities like, how many LR3 sites are there with less than 60% lot utilization that are adjacent to lots with homes that have not pulled a permit in the last 35-years?  Or identify ideal sites for a particular non-profit with a retail-oriented model where it would be useful to see on a single map all sites inside a 2 mile radius of a given customer database that are located in Urban Villages with frontages 75′ or greater and that have not traded in the last 12 years.

Maps are powerful for identifying development opportunities but only when the data they illustrate are sophisticated enough to reveal experience.

FIX’s Role
In 2010, FIX created its own custom searchable geospatial database to graphically sort and show data compiled from King County Assessors Office, City of Seattle, and the US Census.  The resulting tool provides us the ability to create maps that identify individual properties based on the hundreds of qualitative data points within each of those databases of information.  FIX has used this tool to support its clients development goals and pursue its own development projects.

New architectural strategies for vibrant public spaces

New architectural strategies for creating vibrant public spaces.

Exciting new strategies using landscape, vertical circulation and multiple levels of public access to create spaces that stimulate community interaction.

Circulation is the program
There is an exciting attitude about the role that architecture can play in creating vibrant public spaces. Architects, urban designers and landscape architects are blurring the lines between traditional public spaces like plazas and vertical or enclosed architecture typically hosted by private companies and organizations. The results are new forms and program ideas, creating exciting spaces for people to experience their cities and each other.  In these new design strategies, supported by new construction and fabrication techniques, architecture is playing with circulation in a way that was traditionally used by landscape architects, designing the ground and walkways into multiple levels that pass through and on top of the architecture.  The gestures are inherently democratic: the building object is yielding to the people milling about it.

At FIX, we find this trend exciting for the implications it has for providing more equitable and stimulating public spaces within both the public and private sectors. We believe that spaces can help communities, companies, and individuals become more effective, creative and productive.  The more excuses we can design into our spaces to delight and stimulate interaction with one another, the more that becomes true.

This book is a small collection of precedents we’ve collected, exploring this new trend.