[Update: Seattle in Progress is now at The links below have been updated.]

I pass construction sites every day — it’s hard not to in Seattle — and every time I do, I wonder what’s being built. This question started to bug me more and more: in an era of rapid growth and enormous neighborhood interest in directing that growth, why isn’t it easier to get a clear picture of what’s being planned and built at any particular site? There are land use notice signs, but they give little more than an aerial outline of the building and are quickly covered in graffiti. The City publishes design proposals from the architects, but they’re burried in the depths of the City’s website, where few outside the official planning process will ever see them.


Two views of the same development. Left: Land use notices give you little sense of the project. Right: Design proposals are full of information and visuals, but neither the city nor the builder make any effort to bring public attention to them.

Seattle in Progress is my answer to this problem. It’s a mobile web app that informs and engages residents in local land use and building design decisions. All the basic information about a planned building is available with a single click on a map. And detailed design proposals can be viewed quickly and easily.

Here’s an example of the basic functionality of the app, showing the map view, a project description and a rendering from the design proposal:



Left: Pins show every project that’s gone before a design review board recently. Middle: Clicking on a pin reveals basic information about the project, such as number of stories and units. Right: Clicking the thumbnail lets you flip through each page of the design proposal.


Give Seattle in Progress a try on the desktop or your phone at Or use the shortcut for less typing on a phone. You can also receive notifications of upcoming development projects by following us on Twitter, @seattle_nprgres.

I’ve been using the app to learn more about my neighborhood, and I’m always discovering interesting developments:

Learn about planned re-builds long before construction starts: The Value Village building on 11th and Pine.

Linda’s Tavern will be surrounded by the new 714 E Pike building.

First Hill is getting a new high-rise to rival First Hill Plaza.

Seattle in Progress is just getting started. Looking forward, there are two big features coming soon. First, you’ll be able to follow specific projects or whole neighborhoods and receive email updates on any new activity or change in project status. You could, for instance, ask to be notified of any new construction or demolition within a mile of your house. Second, there will be more emphasis on voicing your opinion. There will be notices of upcoming public meetings and the ability to directly submit feedback to the design review board.

I’d love to get feedback on the app, or just general ideas on how technology could increase public awareness and participation in urban planning. I’m curious what professionals in the field–developers, architects, urban planners, contractors, real estate agents and others–wish technology could do for them. And I’m curious what interested residents, neighborhood activists, journalists and bloggers would like to see.

If you like Seattle in Progress, please follow us on Twitter, @seattle_nprgres, and help spread the word. You can send any feedback or suggestions to

We hope you loved this article. If so, please consider subscribing or donating. The Urbanist is a non-profit that depends on donations from readers like you.

Ethan is the founder and lead organizer for Seattle Tech 4 Housing, a grassroots education and advocacy group fighting for progressive housing reform. Seattle Tech 4 Housing was founded on the principals that the tech boom can and should benefit every Seattle resident; that abundant and affordable housing is the foundation of an equitable city; and that the tech community in particular has a responsibility to fight for solutions. Ethan is also the founder of Seattle in Progress, a real estate tech consultancy and website for tracking construction in Seattle.


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  4. I just saw this on the news and caught my attention because I am management for the job on the corner of Harvard and Pine St. This APP is going to be a great tool. I always see projects and look for the general contractor’s signage and then try to research on their website what they are building.

  5. fantastic! We’re teaching a “land use 101” class on development for people at the Gathering Of Neighbors and I’ll be sure and point this out!

  6. Hi Ethan, My name is Lisa Rutzick and I manage Seattle’s Design Review Program. I absolutely love what you are doing here! I would really appreciate talking with you further about this concept if you have time. What is the best way to get in touch?

  7. Very cool. As a journalist who tracks these sort of things extensively and intensively, especially when trying to catch proposals in the earliest stages, I’d second the motion for “current status.” Really tough to automate because that sort of thing just doesn’t show up in any place currently publicly facing that I’ve found … we just track it manually (looking for correction documents in the file and checking their dates, etc., covering meetings, looking for no-parking signs indicating backhoes are on the way, etc.).

    • That’s a great idea. Should be an easy piece of data to pull off for Ethan, then it’s just a matter of creating appropriate theming. I like it! Also, it might be worth noting Urban Village/Urban Centers with their names. Actual land use plan designations won’t mean much to anyone else but wonks like planners.

      • Ah, but regular people should know this. Everywhere I go I see the invisible ceilings set by height limits, the emptiness prescribed by FARs and setbacks…

        It wouldn’t have to have the bureaucratic naming conventions. One way to do it would be to have different layers: a max height layer, a land use layer (commercial, industrial, etc.), a setback layer, a minimum parking layer, etc. Ok, probably beyond the scope of this tool. But it doesn’t have to be.

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