gray-large.pngThe Seattle Times FYI [Statistics] Guy Gene Balk put together a very interesting article toward the end of this March. Ith’s title: Newcomers arriving in record numbers, but from where?

Here’s a reproduction of Gene’s hook and lead paragraphs:

It’s official: Amazon boom beats Microsoft boom.

In 2014, King County smashed a 24-year-old record for the number of newcomers — and we’re on pace to set a record again in 2015.

Some 64,376 people from out of state were issued driver’s licenses in King County last year, according to records from the Washington Department of Licensing. Previously, 1990 held the title as the peak year for movers to King County. In that year, at the height of the Microsoft boom, the DOL tallied 57,437 newcomers to the county from out of state.

Wow! With almost 65 thousand new residents to the County seat of Seattle and its formidable Boomburg of Bellevue amongst a number of other fast accelerating areas including Shoreline to Bothell to the North; Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Newcastle and quite a bit more to the East; and Renton, Tukwilla, Kent, and Auburn to the South … is it no wonder that we see cranes darn near everywhere.

I’ve witnessed this type of “ouchy” growth before working and keeping tabs on the explosion of Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Hangzhou in China. While we might think things will soldier on, the reality is that considerable macro planning is an absolute necessity to make sure that there are proper corridors to allow people to get about the business of their day.

Without going into any discussion about moving people from the named places to Seattle or Bellevue’s central business districts, I do want to dwell on the ultimate in air easements – Skyways.

Skyways are essentially bridges which link buildings together and in so doing allows pedestrians safer mobility through the city. While I don’t know that I have a complete list, when I think about it the following skyways come to mind. [I invite correction and supplementation.]

  • Seattle’s Nordstrom – Pacific Place Skyway across 6th.
  • Seattle University’s Dorm – Commons Skyway across Cherry.
  • Seattle’s Convention Center Skybridge
  • Seattle’s 1001 (i.e. Black Box Building the Space Needle came in) has one nearby … but its not used.
  • Seattle’s airport parking to terminal has about 6 skybridges. Oh right …
  • Seattle’s Jail to Courthouse is a nice high skybridge. And
  • Bellevue Mall to Lincoln Center has a skybridge.

Hmm? that’s more than I thought. But, I don’t think it’s enough. I suspect that you would get the same reaction from a number of the people who ride the ferry into Coleman dock in the morning and ask what they think about their commute. Many if not most punch the up button for the impressive bank of elevators the Exchange Building and then depending on destination make a break for the cluster of buildings at the top of James or go up the Wells Fargo Bank habitrail escalator and then further north into the city. At any rate, I suspect not a one of them would care to have their pedestrian bridge removed along with the viaduct when Bertha’s mission and all the work yet to follows is finally complete. 

Now as abundant as these skyways may appear, they are nothing compared to the city of my birth – Minneapolis. Minneapolis has taken on the concept – obviously because of its extreme temperatures both cold and hot – to make a Skyway System.

This system connects buildings throughout Minneapolis’ CBD. Moreover, as this integrative map link indicates there are retail businesses within the building corridors to which the skyways connect.

Connect, connection, neighbors, neighboring … are you starting to get my point. When you live in an environment of some give and take in which you allow some – though certainly not all – of your space to intersect and intermingle with others … value is created.

Skyways help what urban economists call agglomeration. These are benefits of proximity to a city’s core because of economies of scale and network effects. To dwell on the latter a little bit more, this means explicitly to be in contact with others … and others of different backgrounds and pursuits.

I think Seattle would be extremely wise to consider how to start networking its buildings. Perhaps Paul Allen’s Vulcan can show how this ought to be done in the South Lake Union to spur others. Alternatively, the buildings that are now going up at 5th and Marion might want to see if they can be connected in the sky like Minneapolis instead of underground – as is the case around Columbia Center currently – just like Houston.

Underground, Texas style. Really now? That’s not Seattle!

Regardless, with roughly 65,000 people poring into King County many of whom obviously work in Seattle or Bellevue, putting together a Skyway system is a great idea.

A great idea for everyone with the possible exception of the poignant, star-crossed admirer sung about by the Replacements from their 1987 Pleased to Meet Me album called non other than … Skyway. Enjoy!gray-small.png