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

By Sheila Mickool


April 1, 2017

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Seattle Magazine.

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.

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