By Meghan Hall
In the midst of downtown Bellevue’s development boom, a local developer has changed course on its plans for a 1.8-acre parcel at the heart of downtown. According to city documents, West77 Partners has decreased the size and scope of its project for Washington Square, shifting the project from a mix of residential and hotel to hotel and office space, instead.
A new Master Development Plan application was submitted to the City of Bellevue a year after West77 submitted its initial plans. Originally, the developer had planned to construct a four-phase project that would ultimately include two hotels and two residential towers at 10620 NE 8th St. Now, documents indicate that West77 is now planning a 20-story, 350,000 square foot office tower with ground floor uses on the southern portion of the site as opposed to a second residential tower, and an eight-story, 210-key hotel to the north.
The plans show that the project could be constructed in three manners: the hotel and office could be built simultaneously, the hotel could be constructed first, then the office, or the office could be constructed first, then the hotel latter. If the project does end up involving multiple phases of construction, the timing of the second phase will be determined at a later date.
Currently, the property itself is a surface parking lot with a low-rise commercial building at its eastern edge. The project site lies at the southwest corner of a superblock bounded by NE 10th St., 108th Ave. NE, 106th Ave. NE and NE 8th St. The block is home to the Washington Square Residential Towers, a Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, the Bellevue Office Tower and a mix of older, low-rise retail buildings. The parcel to the east of the project also currently has a project under review with the city: another office tower proposed by Skanska. That project is expected to total 525,000 square feet.
Headquartered in Bellevue, West77 Partners is currently developing more than $100 million in real estate assets, according to its website. Its projects include an array of WoodSpring Suites in Everett, Redmond and Tukwila, as well as the first phase of the Washington Square project.
At the beginning of the year, the Bellevue office market was already incredibly constrained as major tech tenants worked to make downtown their home. Across the entire Eastside, Class A office space had its lowest vacancy rate in 20 years, at 4.2 percent. At the end of the first quarter, downtown Bellevue’s vacancy rate sits even lower, at 3.5 percent, and there was only one block of space greater than 40,000 square feet up for grabs. In the coming years, 40 percent of Eastside office space will be leased by Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google and T-Mobile alone, according to a first quarter report released by Broderick Group. Amazon, for example, has committed to 2.85 million square feet in downtown Bellevue alone over the next 3.5 years.
However, what remains to be seen in the future is the proliferation and impact of telecommuting. Recently, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg stated that about half of the company’s employees could be working from home in five to 10 years, which would prompt the company to re-evaluate its needs for current and future office assets. And, despite strong fundamentals, developers like West77 partners may only move forward with projects if they are able to ink a significant pre-lease.
As of this writing, West77 Partners has not returned The Registry’s request for comment.