Suburbs Go Urban: Seattle Area City Centers

Three Puget Sound–area suburban communities marry the best of big-city amenities to a small-town lifestyle
The ground floor of Riverpark houses services including Sola Salons and the Hyatt House Hotel with its Sip & Savor bar

When it comes to lifestyle preferences, millennials and baby boomers have something in common, says Zillow chief economist Svenja Gudell, Ph.D. Both want to live an urban lifestyle—one that feels more like city living and less like isolated suburban life—and together they are driving a trend that is redefining life in the suburbs: the rise of mixed-use developments and multifamily units in suburban downtown cores.

Millennials want to live, work and play in an urban setting where owning a car is optional and amenities, including restaurants and shops, are nearby. Baby boomers are leaving large homes for smaller digs in an urban setting. Some even dream of giving up their cars.

In the past, this meant moving to downtown Seattle, where a short stroll to Pike Place Market for fresh kale is part of the fabric of daily life. Today, according to Gudell, it may mean moving into a mixed-use residential building in the urban core of a suburban city that has easy access to public transportation and city-like amenities within walking distance.

Those that embrace this lifestyle love the vibrancy of the neighborhood, walking to nearby shops and restaurants, and the easy interaction with their neighbors, Gudell says. What can you expect from this new style of suburban living? We’ve checked out a few mixed-use developments for you.

The Riverpark multistory community, built in 2008 with apartments, offices, a hotel and retail space, is located on a serene cul-de-sac in the heart of Redmond, bordering Luke McRedmond Landing and the Sammamish River Trail. Given this sweet location, it’s not surprising that the complex offers bike and kayak rentals to residents. Requisite amenities for apartment dwellers—who can choose from 200 floor plans—include outdoor grills, garage, community lounge, 24-hour fitness center, theater room, bike room, electric-car charging stations and a game room.

Photograph by Hyatt
The Hyatt House Hotel with its Sip & Savor bar

What sets the apartments apart are the other amenities in the complex. Residents can visit Sola Salons for services, house guests at Hyatt House hotel and dine on comfort food at the hotel’s Sip & Savor bar. QFC and Trader Joe’s are just across the street. Woodblock, a vibrant neighborhood restaurant, is a couple of blocks away. Redmond Saturday Market, Redmond Town Center, a plethora of restaurants and a transit center are a short walk from Riverpark.

Photograph by Woodblock
Woodblock restaurant is just a couple blocks away from Riverpark multistory community

Apartments range from studios to two-bedroom units, with monthly rents from $1,465 for a 615-square-foot studio to $2,700 for a 1,882-square-foot, loft-style two-bedroom home.

Burien Town Square

Photograph by City of Burien/Amanda Snyder
Burien Town Square offers a farmer's market as well as shops, restaurants and a play area for kids

When Burien’s downtown core received a face-lift a few years ago, sidewalks were widened, benches and landscaping added, and old-fashioned lampposts installed. The project that had the biggest impact, however, was the development of Burien Town Square, which opened in 2009 and includes a King County Library branch, the Burien City Hall building and a multistory condo/retail building. The project immediately revitalized the downtown core, already home to boutiques and restaurants. 

Photograph by Burien
Condos around pedestrian-friendly Burien Town Square

The 124 condos include studios, one- and two-bedroom units, townhomes and live/work loft units. It’s a pedestrian-friendly location in the heart of Burien, next to Town Square Park and within steps of the city’s best-known restaurants, the farmers’ market, monthly art walks, local theater, eclectic seasonal festivals (including the Wild Strawberry Festival and the Burien UFO Festival) and a transit center.  In addition to some familiar chains, onsite retail and restaurants include Pickled & Preserved Market and Deli and The Oilerie, an Italian grocery and olive oil purveyor.

Five of these condos sold in 2016, including a 671-square-foot unit for $215,000 and a 1,285-square-foot condo for $377,500.



The Gregory
There are many housing options in and near Edmonds’ downtown core, ranging from a few walk-ups above retail shops in a historic building in the center of town to contemporary mixed-used buildings with sunset and water views in quiet sections a block or two from the center of this Seattle suburb.

Photograph by Tom Marks
Living in a condo, such as the Gregory, near downtown Edmonds, means that shops and restaurants are just a short walk away

The Gregory, built in 2007, is an upscale condominium project with retail on the first floor. The elegant condos are located in a three-story, traditional, mixed-use building on Fifth Avenue within a block of the center of Edmonds. Street-level retail space houses the popular Snap Fitness gym and J. Rankin Jewellers. Directly across Fifth Avenue, an intimate two-lane street, is Girardi’s Osteria, a rustic Italian eatery and a local favorite. Steps from the building, residents can visit family-owned IGA Market, have their nails done, drop off a suit at the dry cleaners, get tax advice, frame their favorite vacation photo, handle their banking and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the Pancake Haus. If you need to go farther afield, the ferry terminal and train station are a short, pretty walk to the waterfront. Head to Seattle or Vancouver, British Columbia, on the train for a day of shopping with friends, or board the ferry for the scenic ride to Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula.

There are 27 condo units in the complex. Recent sales in 2016 included a 1,319-square-foot unit that sold for $455,000 and a top-floor 1,916-square-foot home that sold for $689,950.

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