‘The heart of our city is quiet’: Video shot through and above downtown Seattle captures emptiness

As painful as it is to witness the empty streets and boarded up storefronts in downtown Seattle and throughout the city, it’s helpful to understand that that emptiness is what love looks like.

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Our love for each other, in the name of “flattening the curve” and beating back coronavirus and COVID-19, has meant the need for social distancing and self isolation, as it has for cities around the globe. And it’s hard to recognize this eerily quiet version of such a bustling and vibrant place.

A new video from the Downtown Seattle Association goes through and above the city to capture it without its people and traffic. Home to 330,000 jobs and more than 88,000 residents, the 5-square-mile economic engine of the region is at a standstill.

“The heart of our city is quiet. But the heart of Seattle beats strong,” a message reads over a view of the skyline.

The DSA calls Seattle “the first U.S. urban core to be rocked by the virus economically” while saying that “if we stay along our current trajectory we just may be the first to bounce back from this.”

A recent report from the organization on the impact of COVID-19 on downtown Seattle and the region contained some sobering numbers.

  • On March 16, ​restaurant sales in the city of Seattle dropped about 80 percent​ compared to comparable days the previous year and have since remained at that level.
  • At least 21 downtown hotels have temporarily closed.
  • Convention cancellations will likely lead to economic loss of in excess of $172 million.
  • Cruises in Seattle have been put on hold indefinitely. Should the 2020 season be cancelled altogether, the losses could exceed $900 million.
  • Losses by arts and cultural organizations in the Puget Sound region were estimated at approximately $21.6 million through the end of March to as much as $74.1 million by the end of May.
  • Daily bus ridership has been down more than 80 percent for Sound Transit and 65 percent for King County metro.
  • Automated traffic counters downtown show daily counts dropping by around 60 percent each day compared to normal.
  • According to data from Citymapper, as of March 25, personal movement in Seattle overall (including driving, transit, walking, biking, etc.) is​ ​less than 10 percent​ of normal. In the first week of social distancing measures in Washington state, Seattle saw the greatest decrease in movement of people in the western hemisphere (5th largest decrease in the world).

The video does capture messages of hope scrawled on boarded-up businesses.

As views of empty landmarks such as the Pike Place Market and Space Needle are mixed with the scene from Belltown to Pioneer Square, the waterfront, the Amazon Spheres and more, the video looks to leave viewers with a forward-looking promise.

“This is how we defeat the virus. … This is how we’ll get our city back. … The comeback will be spectacular.”