The expensive, competitive real estate market was one of the Eastside’s defining stories of 2015. A driving factor of the real estate boom was foreign investment from China and, well, Chinese buying power is faltering a bit early in 2016.

As detailed by The New York Times, China is facing a two-part problem: a plummeting stock market, and a plummeting renminbi. Both these issues are causing the net worth of Chinese individuals to drop, which could have ramifications this year on the Eastside.

Let’s say a wealthy individual wants to buy a house in Bellevue. Over the last few years, that’s been easy. Markets in Shanghai were cruising, and China’s currency was stronger. But now, as stocks plummet and the renminbi continues to shed value relative to the dollar, once-affordable Bellevue pads are swiftly becoming more expensive.

This is a problem that could persist through 2016 — Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicts the Shanghai Composite index will fall nearly 30 percent this year. It remains to be seen if that’s the case, and whether it will slow Chinese investment in the booming Puget Sound area.

Virtual reality’s real reality at CES

The tech world’s eyes were on Las Vegas this week for the annual Consumer Electronics Show, and much of the talk has been about virtual reality. There were big announcements from key players like Oculus — the Rift headset will cost $600 (!) — and HTC — its Vive headset now features a camera to monitor the r  oom the user’s in — but just as important, as The Seattle Times notes, is the general presence of VR headsets and the embrace of them by smaller companies.

Commercial head-mounted displays (HMDs) won’t be available until spring, but excitement is already welling (New York Times columnist Brian X. Chen: “Virtual reality is here to stay“), even though we’ve seen this before:

VirtualVision Sport, circa 1993. Photo courtesy Gizmodo.

VirtualVision Sport, circa 1993. Looks a bit similar to a certain Microsoft product, no? Photo courtesy Gizmodo.

VR was prominent at CES, but it wasn’t the talk of the show — that honor goes to car manufacturers. Boosted by record sales (thanks, cheap oil!), the auto industry is ready to spend on electric vehicles and ones that drive themselves.

A big get for Kirkland

An artist rendering of Kirkland Urban, formerly known as Parkplace, in downtown Kirkland. Image courtesy Talon Private Capital.

Things are going well for Kirkland. More and more tech companies are setting up shop there, the Cross-Kirkland Corridor is a great amenity, and areas like Totem Lake are being revamped. Thus, expanding companies are targeting it as a Seattle suburb of choice.

This week, two of Seattle’s biggest startups, Tableau Software and Wave, announced they will lease 175,000 square feet of office space in the city’s largest downtown development, Kirkland Urban. The project, which will eventually include 1.2 million square feet of mixed-use development, will house 3,000 employees in the city’s bustling downtown. The project as planned will boost the amount of Kirkland office space by about 20 percent.

Elsewhere on the Web

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Now that Amazon’s WorkMail is available, Microsoft might be losing one of its few advantages — productivity apps — over Amazon in the cloud.

Is the Seattle-area economy awesome because we’re smart and innovative, or because we’re lucky that Boeing, Bezos, and Gates moved here?