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Seattle cranes
Cranes frame the Space Needle. (Kurt Schlosser photos / GeekWire)

If looking up in Seattle has you feeling down — because change is hard — a new report may not make things any better, or it will at least confirm what you already knew — that the city is growing up and up and up and there really are more cranes than anywhere else in the country.

The Seattle Times said in a story Friday that Seattle is the “crane capital of America” right now, and that during this past summer the ubiquitous yellow cranes numbered 58. That’s 18 more than the next closest city, Los Angeles, and way more than other big cities such as New York (28), Chicago (26) and San Francisco (24).

The Times cites data from the firm Rider Levett Bucknall, which tracks crane counts all over the world, and says that Seattle’s crane total has grown 38 percent in the past year.

Seattle cranes
Cranes above the Amazon biospheres.
Seattle cranes
The biospheres before the glass.
Amazon construction in South Lake Union.
Amazon construction in South Lake Union.

The cranes are impossible to miss for anyone who lives or works or visits the city or any of its neighborhoods where the construction of new office towers and hotels and apartment buildings and condos is ongoing. The growth of Amazon alone has fueled much of what is visible in the South Lake Union neighborhood and Denny Triangle section of Seattle.

GeekWire’s Cara Kuhlman calls it “the crane game” — trying to count as many of them as you can see from one vantage point.

“My high is 21 from Lake Union,” says the avid sailor.

I’ve been photographing cranes in Seattle for years, starting mostly around the time my own neighborhood, Ballard, started to undergo rapid change. But documenting the city’s changing appearance soon went beyond just watching something old, like Sunset Bowl, come down and six-story apartment buildings go up.

Seattle cranes
From the middle of Lake Union.
Seattle cranes
A massive development in Ballard.
Seattle cranes
Part of the view.
Seattle cranes
Belltown towers.

The skyline is filling in. From the Space Needle to Smith Tower, cranes are lifting and turning and helping to build the new Seattle. Tech workers are filling new office buildings during the day and they’re going home at night to high-rise apartments. And below it all, criss crossing Seattle, the roads are jammed.

Across Lake Washington, in Bellevue, progress is also evident thanks to the cranes that dot that city’s skyline. The Times says Bellevue developers launched 29 projects requiring cranes from 2013 to 2015.

I spent a few months working in downtown Bellevue in the summer of 2015, and at times, from the street looking up, it was hard to imagine the city was that much smaller than Seattle.

Bellevue cranes
Downtown Bellevue. (Photos by Kurt Schlosser / GeekWire)
Bellevue cranes
Downtown Bellevue from Lincoln Square.
Bellevue cranes
Looking south from Lincoln Square.

The Times story details all that goes into having a crane on a construction site, from the necessary planning — it’s an 8-month wait — to the cost — $15,000 to $55,000 per month, depending on what type is needed.

If the tech boom eventually slows, we’ll surely start to know by a dip or deep dive in crane numbers. It would be remarkable, and probably sad, to live in a city where there are no cranes — a sure sign that growth and jobs aren’t part of that town’s picture.

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