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Byline: Mike Lindblom
May 21--When the city of Seattle decided two years ago to build a streetcar line at South Lake Union, many residents called the project a frill.
Since then, the landscape has changed. It's all torn up.
Track construction on the $51 million project has reached the halfway point, as if synchronized with all the new offices, biotech labs and condominium buildings now being built along the 1.3-mile route, from the Westin Hotel to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The formerly quiet district of apartments and warehouses suddenly looks like someplace where thousands of potential riders might appear.
Since 2005, about 920 housing units have been built within a few blocks of the line, while 1,550 homes and 1.7 million square feet of office space are under construction, said Michael Mann, transportation adviser to Mayor Greg Nickels.
"This is a pleasant surprise. It's been developing faster than expected," said City Council President Nick Licata, who opposed the streetcar and remains worried about the rising costs to operate it.