Bellevue building boom is under way



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Posted on May 12, 2014 at 6:02 PM

David Lonay remembers a day, walking down Bellevue Way, and seeing a "dirt road, and shacks along the way."

The city has come a long way from it's outpost past.

On Monday, work crews began tearing up the roadway to allow for utility work on the Lincoln Square expansion.

"Bellevue Way will continue to be kind of the retail street for the Northwest," says Daniel Meyers, Vice President for Kemper Development.

The company, owned by developer Kemper Freeman, is beginning construction of two towers, adjacent to the existing Lincoln Square, after putting the project on hiatus in 2008. 

"We feel real confident the economy is going in the right direction to kick a large project off," said Meyers. 

Kemper will build one 31-story tower for office use, and another 41-story "luxury apartment hotel," on the southeast corner of the site. The towers will be joined by a large retail complex, and replace the one level grocery store which used to occupy the land.

The project is slated to cost $1.2 billion.  Yet, it's not as ambitious as the one happening across town.

"Things don't happen overnight," said Greg Johnson, as he looks out at the former Safeway distribution site near 124th, and smiles.

The Wright Runstad President has waited a long time for market conditions to improve before moving forward on a $2.4 billion mega project.

The company has begun construction of the Spring District complex, which makes up 16 full city blocks, near the Bel Red corridor.  Wright Runstad's first phase includes office space, a public park, apartments, and a signature brew pub.  

Johnson says the company examined similar projects in other cities, and says, with a chuckle, he found one common theme: "Beer was present in one way shape or form".

That's why his company designed a layout in the planned urban village with a brewpub in mind.  "People are going to be able to walk to the brewery from their apartment to their office, to their light rail station. It's really a place you won't need a car if you don't want to." 

It's also how this project vastly differs from the one in the downtown core.  Johnson, a light rail proponent, says the company factored it into the entire schematic.  There will be a Sound Transit stop within District site. 

"It's really important that light rail help foster the kind of land use changes that'll enable more people to walk to the train."

Freeman, a noted light rail opponent, was unavailable today. His new project will focus on handling expected car volume.  Meyers said there will eventually be 3,500 new spaces with the Lincoln Square addition, and another at Bellevue Square in the not too distant future.  They'll be connected by underground tunnels.  The planned East Link light rail station will be a few blocks away.

Both projects expect to open their first phase in 2016.

Lonay says he's okay with all the work that'll need to be done between now and then, and continue the progress since those outpost days.

"It's necessary, but inconvenient," says Lonay, "I think it's for the best."