A couple of prominent West Coast destinations should look out (you know who you are!). Seattle is set to steal a piece of that Pacific Northwest meetings biz. Planners, if you’ve ever thought about taking a group to Seattle, the time is now. Indeed, the city has quietly undergone a renaissance—largely thanks to Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks—that’s transforming it into a millennial-focused power player for conferences and events.
“Every one of the global companies headquartered here is doing really well. That has fueled hotel growth and new airline service, and has served as a catalyst for downtown living,” says Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Visit Seattle. “Every [aspect] you can imagine has taken off. I look at it as the biggest resurgence a city has ever seen.”
Seattle-headquartered Amazon will open three striking, spherical structures (shown above) on its new campus this summer, ranging from 80 to 95 feet tall. The unique buildings will have exotic plants and open space for Amazon employees (no word on whether they’ll be available for private events, but here’s hoping).
In addition, Seattle Tunnel Partners has embarked on a huge project that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, leading traffic through a tunnel beneath downtown instead. In turn, it will create a new waterfront for Seattle full of pedestrian pathways and public green spaces. Estimated completions for these ventures are 2017 to 2020, but there’s plenty more going on now. See why meetings in this city are a guaranteed success.
WSCC, Part II
It’s no secret Seattle had to turn away nearly as many groups as it accepted last year, in large part due to lack of space over specific dates. That will soon change, as groundbreaking on a second Washington State Convention Center building that will double the center’s size is scheduled for 2017. The yet-to-be-named facility will be able to host more groups simultaneously, says Jeff Blosser, president and CEO of WSCC, rather than bringing in large groups (though he isn’t opposed to that option either). When it’s completed in 2020, the new building will have a 60,000-sq.-ft. ballroom and a 100,000-sq.-ft. flex hall. The estimated cost for the project has jumped to $1.6 billion, funded largely through bonds repaid by revenue from hotel taxes.
For the first time in 40 years, the famous Pike Place Market is growing with MarketFront, a $73 million expansion project that will add 30,000 square feet of open public space, a public plaza and viewing deck, plus more retail space and pedestrian access to the waterfront. MarketFront is scheduled for completion by the end of 2016. Pike Place currently has seven private meeting areas, the largest being the Atrium floor, which has a capacity of 175.
Gettin’ Fresh: 3 Ways to Save by Keeping It Local
1. Skip organized leisure. Instead, organize transportation to get attendees to the market, and turn them loose for a few hours.
2. Save money on shipping by picking up gift bags or baskets from Washington-grown Chukar Cherries to use as room drops or speaker gifts.
3. Why spend major dollars on floral arrangements when you can send a few helpers to Pike Place Market to pick up locally grown bouquets for $10 a pop?Space OutWhen it was constructed in 1962 for the World’s Fair, the Space Needle was a must-visit. It’s still an iconic event venue, though the area around it in Seattle Center is home to two more wow-worthy spots that make for memorable off-site events. > EMP Museum This isn’t like any other music museum. It’s dedicated to pop culture and was started by a Microsoft co-founder. Seattle is known as the birthplace of grunge music (the moody Nirvana exhibit is a given), but it also plays an important role in rock ’n’ roll history as the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix. Even if you’re not a fan, seeing never-recorded song lyrics penned on napkins and diary pages written by the guitar great, who died at only 27, is chilling. > Chihuly Garden and Glass No matter how many photos you’ve seen, they don’t do justice to the real thing. Glass artist Dale Chihuly has created a true masterpiece in this museum, which doubles as a spectacular event venue. Blosser says groups meeting at WSCC often head here for off-site dinners. The 40-ft.-tall Glasshouse, with a brilliant, suspended red, orange and yellow sculpture, holds up to 700 for a reception or 300 for a sit-down meal. Classic and Contemporary Part of what makes Seattle so charming is its eclectic mix of old and new, especially when it comes to hotels. Classic: The 223-room Edgewater, Seattle’s only waterfront hotel, was put on the map in the ’60s when The Beatles famously stayed there and fished out of their suite window. Contemporary: Opened in 2014, the downtown Motif Seattle is an art-focused property with modern decor, strong ties to the local art community and the trendiest rooftop in town. Classic: The 1,236-room Sheraton Seattle Hotel opened in 1982 and currently serves as the main headquarter hotel for WSCC. It has 75,000 square feet of meeting space and 47 meeting rooms. Contemporary: A yet-to-be-named second headquarter hotel with 1,200 rooms is expected in the next few years adjacent to WSCC downtown. Major brands including Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott have bids. A la Carte With the goal of opening five new restaurants in 2016 alone, Josh Henderson is cookin’ with gas. The progressive chef is founder and owner of Huxley Wallace Collective, which includes newcomers like Bar Noroeste, Quality Athletics, Saint Helens and Vestal, as well as his award-winning first restaurant Westward. Each of the spots has private dining space and menus with locally sourced items that will leave attendees with a true taste of Seattle. Additionally, Huxley Wallace is behind Scout, the dining establishment within the new Thompson Seattle hotel, which opened in May.