A Downtown Regeneration Agenda

Chuck Wolfe
3 min readJul 25, 2023
Seattle Transforming, Chuck Wolfe photo

During my current return to Seattle after several years abroad, I have been exploring various topics for GeekWire, related to urban resilience, recovery, and innovation in the post-pandemic era. In this series of four articles (to date), I share my perspectives on how cities can adapt and thrive in the face of unprecedented challenges and opportunities. You can find each article at Geekwire’s summary link, here.

AI envisioned the future of downtown Seattle. Here’s where it fell short

In my latest article, I evaluate the AI-generated vision of downtown Seattle’s future, which was part of the city’s Downtown Activation Plan presentation in late June. I argue that the AI images were too generic and lacked the particular human scale and diversity associated with downtown Seattle. I suggest that before generating third-party imagery, city leaders, planners and designers should engage with local communities and stakeholders to create more authentic and context-specific scenarios that reflect their needs and aspirations.

From vacant storefronts to vibrant hubs: Revisiting ‘third places’ for urban resilience

In this article, I revisit the concept of “third places,” informal social spaces that foster a sense of belonging, identity, civic engagement, and diversity in a city. I cite examples from around the world where third places have been created or revitalized to address the challenges posed by the pandemic, such as social isolation, economic hardship, and environmental degradation. I propose that a multifaceted third-place agenda should be a priority for downtown recovery, as it can help transcend times of isolation with renewed social encounters and opportunities.

It’s not just about bringing workers back to the office: 10 indicators of a downtown resurgence

In this article, I identify ten indicators that can signal a downtown resurgence based on my observations and analysis of various cities worldwide. I argue that downtowns need to offer more than just office space, but also a range of amenities, services, attractions, and experiences that cater to different needs and preferences. I also emphasize the importance of safety, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability as key factors influencing downtown vitality.

Analysis: Amazon’s ‘Great Return’ to the office is just one aspect of a downtown Seattle comeback

In this lead article, I analyze the impact of Amazon’s decision to return to the office on downtown Seattle’s recovery. I argue that while Amazon’s presence is significant and beneficial for the city’s economy and innovation ecosystem, it will not in itself ensure a complete comeback. I point out that other aspects of downtown life need attention and support, such as retail, hospitality, culture, arts, entertainment, education, health care, and social services, and describe how these elements should be approached holistically and contextually. I also note that Amazon’s return should be seen as an opportunity to foster more collaboration and integration between the tech giant and other sectors and stakeholders downtown.

Stay tuned for more.



Chuck Wolfe

Charles R. Wolfe founded the Seeing Better Cities Group in Seattle and London to improve the conversation around how cities grow and evolve across the world.