The first apartment project opens this week in Bellevue’s Spring District near a future light rail station.

The Spring District is about one-and-a-half miles east of downtown Bellevue. It has normally been home to light industrial uses like warehouses and strip malls.

“Previously this was an industrial zone where you could not have any housing,” said John Marasco, chief development officer with Security Properties. His company’s Sparc Apartments, at the corner of NE 12st Street and 120th Avenue NE, is the first phase of housing built since the city re-zoned the area.

Soon the neighborhood will also welcome a University of Washington graduate institute that opens this fall. REI will move its headquarters nearby in 2020. In 2023, the neighborhood is supposed to get a light rail station.

Marasco said four million square feet of commercial office space and retail is coming, along with 1,500 units of housing.

“In addition to tech, in this location right here, you also have a lot of health care,” said Marasco of who he thinks can fill the space.

The neighborhood’s transformation is coming as a surprise to some.

Alicia Anderson works in Bellevue, but only comes east of I-405 to run errands, she said.

“It’s in the works, it looks like,” Anderson said. “Bellevue does need more housing. It’s really expensive to live in Bellevue.”

An economist at Zillow, Svenja Gudell, said any step toward adding housing in the Bellevue area is noteworthy and should have a ripple effect on housing inventory, even incrementally.