Amazon invented a neighborhood to serve its Seattle headquarters, but the restaurants it lured there are failing

This post was originally published on this site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Amazon SouthLakeUnion Seattle (28 of 57)So far, Amazon hasn’t created the thriving “18-hour” neighborhood it promised.Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

When Amazon chose downtown Seattle for its massive urban campus, John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate, wanted to create a thriving “18-hour” neighborhood.

To some extent, Amazon has succeeded. In a decade, nonstop development has transformed Seattle’s South Lake Union and Denny Triangle from a sea of parking lots, car rental agencies, motels, and warehouses to gleaming office towers and luxury real estate. 

Restaurants, gyms, cafès, and even medical clinics have moved in, drawn by Amazon’s ever-expanding workforce and the promise of high-salaried residents due to move into the thousands of newly-built luxury apartments. 

But for many of the neighborhood’s new businesses, things haven’t turned out exactly like they hoped. For one, they can’t get customers in during non-work hours, at dinnertime and on weekends.

“The worst thing is having an empty restaurant and then trying to keep your staff motivated and energized,” local restaurateur and chef Josh Henderson told Marketplace.

On a recent visit to Seattle, we checked out the so-called “18-hour” neighborhood.

View As: One Page Slides

Over the last decade, Amazon has transformed South Lake Union and its surrounding areas, Belltown and Denny Triangle. Each of those pins on the map is an Amazon office.

Over the last decade, Amazon has transformed South Lake Union and its surrounding areas, Belltown and Denny Triangle. Each of those pins on the map is an Amazon office.

Amazon’s corporate buildings in South Lake Union, Seattle, Washington.GoogleMaps/Screenshot

Amazon has nearly 40,000 employees in Seattle, with plans to grow to 55,000 in the near future. Amazonians are everywhere downtown.

Amazon’s offices are spread across more than 33 buildings and 13.6 million square feet of office space in the area. This is Day 1 Tower, one of four towers that will form the heart of Amazon’s urban campus by the time its completed.

Sources: GeekWire, SF GateCNBC 

With so much real estate, Amazon has become one of the biggest landlords in the area, dictating what businesses rent its spaces. For its part, Amazon has rented out to local businesses and avoided chains.

John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate, has said the company wants to turn South Lake Union and Denny Triangle into an “18-hour district” for Seattleites. This dog park, next to Day 1 tower, is open to the public.

Source: The Seattle Times

Businesses flocked downtown to capitalize on the Amazon workforce and the crop of luxury renters, but business has yet to show up as promised.

As of August, the company rents out space to 32 businesses, with 24 of those being restaurants and cafès. Most of the restaurants are run by locals. Assembly Hall and Tanakasan are run by famed local chef Tom Douglas.

Source: Tom Douglas

Amazon’s workforce has created a booming lunch crowd. A fleet of food trucks descend everyday. When I walked around at lunchtime, it seemed like everyone on the street carried a blue badge and a takeout box.

Demand in the area is for “quick food, under fifteen bucks,” restaurateur Josh Henderson told Marketplace. That means big business for lunch and happy hour Monday to Friday, but little else. Fast-casual places like Mamnoon Street have done well.

Sources: The Seattle TimesMarketplace

Last January, Henderson closed his tacos and drinks spot, Bar Noroeste, when Amazonians didn’t bite. He reopened as Kiki Ramen months later.

Source: Eater Seattle

Henderson closed three restaurants in the area in August. He had hoped upscale eatery Vestal would become a destination. When that didn’t happen, he focused on the Amazon crowd, but even that didn’t work. “It’s a pretty soul-sucking experience to have a restaurant that’s empty on a Tuesday night,” he said last April.

Source: The Seattle Times, Marketplace

Dinner and weekend business remains weak. Cactus began offering a “late night” happy hour last year to drum up business. Owner Marc Chatalas told The Seattle Times the move has not been effective. “Simply, the neighborhood has not developed,” he said.

Some restaurant managers told The Seattle Times, they’ve even had trouble hiring talented chefs and experienced waitstaff, because tips are low and they’d rather focus on dinner establishments than those catering to the lunch crowd.

Award-winning chef Chris Keff sold Flying Fish when she found the restaurant wasn’t making profit. “And that’s the thing about when you build a whole new neighborhood, with Class A office buildings is that the space is quite expensive to rent, so you depend on having business at most times of the day,” Keff said.

Source: The Seattle Times, Marketplace

Amazon has tried to help, keeping its campus cafeteria small to encourage employees to venture into nearby restaurants. And the area’s landlords, including Amazon and Paul Allen-owned Vulcan, have given many tenants “improvement allowances” to cover some renovations for new restaurants.

Source: The Seattle Times

Douglas, who also owns Brave Horse Tavern, told The Seattle Times that the burden is on restaurateurs to adapt to the neighborhood by adding happy hours, outdoor seating, and other things that appeal to the daytime crowd.

 Douglas, who also owns Brave Horse Tavern, told The Seattle Times that the burden is on restaurateurs to adapt to the neighborhood by adding happy hours, outdoor seating, and other things that appeal to the daytime crowd.

Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

Source: The Seattle Times

But Amazon’s lease agreements require restaurants to stay open late into the night. Some restaurants have tried to close early because they found they couldn’t generate enough business at night to justify the cost of staying open.

Marination co-owner Roz Edison asked Amazon to allow the restaurant to close on Sundays because business drops 50-60% on weekends. Amazon denied the request.

Source: The Seattle Times

Some former restaurant employees told The Seattle Times that Amazon security guards micromanage shops and track when they close. One restaurant owner likened Amazon to “Big Brother,” a claim Amazon has pushed back on.

Source: The Seattle Times

The neighborhood is a microcosm of Silicon Valley trends. Bulletproof Coffee, the masterminds behind the idea of putting a slab of butter in your morning coffee, opened an outpost last year. It’s only a matter of time before raw water and keto restaurants appear.

Source: Eater Seattle

High-end furniture stores like West Elm and specialty Asian groceries have moved in as well, but they didn’t seem busy when I visited. Only Whole Foods seemed to have a bustling crowd.

Downtown Seattle has added 20,000 apartments in the last decade, with another 27,000 on the way. In some respects, Amazon and the businesses that bought into the neighborhood are just waiting for more people to move in.

Source: Business Insider, The Seattle Times

Despite the turmoil, Schoettler told The Seattle Times in August that all restaurants operating on Amazon property have survived and that they are working with operators to “to make sure they’re staying healthy.”

Source: The Seattle Times

At L Technology Group, we know technology alone will not protect us from the risks associated with in cyberspace. Hackers, Nation States like Russia and China along with “Bob” in HR opening that email, are all real threats to your organization. Defending against these threats requires a new strategy that incorporates not only technology, but also intelligent personnel who, eats and breaths cybersecurity. Together with proven processes and techniques combines for an advanced next-generation security solution. Since 2008 L Technology Group has develop people, processes and technology to combat the ever changing threat landscape that businesses face day to day.

Call Toll Free (855) 999-6425 for a FREE Consultation from L Technology Group,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *