By Jack Stubbs
Marking the latest statement of intent in the Eastside city of Bellevue—which is increasingly regarded by investors and developers as an area ripe for large-scale development projects—local developer Legacy Companies is underway on a two-tower mixed-use office project that will ultimately comprise over 1.2 million square feet.
The in-the-works undertaking is located at 530 112th Ave NE, adjacent to the Meydenbauer Conference Center and just a few blocks from Bellevue’s City Center Plaza. Called Bellevue Straits, the development will ultimately comprise two 29-story towers totaling 1,260,968 square feet of office and retail space, according to project documents on the city of Bellevue’s web site.
Approximately 1.1 million square feet will be designated as office space, while retail space will account for roughly 36,000 square feet. The development will also allocate roughly 868,600 square feet for parking space, with 1,953 parking stalls proposed.
In terms of the timeline for the mixed-use complex, a pre-application conference has been submitted by the project team—which also includes Bellevue-based Freiheit Architecture—to the members of city staff for review. The applicant has not submitted a permit for the project, which is yet to enter the Design Review process.
Bellevue Straits occupies a central location in Bellevue’s ever-expanding downtown core, where a large-scale infrastructure project is underway. The hope is that the in-the-works Bellevue Grand Connection—which spans from the edge of Lake Washington in Meydenbauer Bay Park at 100th Avenue NE, crossing I-405 and connecting the city’s downtown core with the Wilburton neighborhood to the east—will provide further transit-oriented infrastructural connectivity in an ever-growing city.
According to the Grand Connection Framework Plan listed on the city of Bellevue’s web site, the hope is that the project—which was originally begun in 2016 and includes input from city residents and officials and members of the architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) community—will both become a new focal point for Bellevue’s urban landscape in its own right, and also improve upon existing infrastructure and amenities offered in the vicinity.
“Improved connectivity, urban amenities, and experiences will enhance Bellevue’s existing infrastructure within Downtown, while a dynamic crossing over Interstate 405 will usher in a new era and vision for Bellevue’s Wilburton Commercial Area,” the project description states.
“It is the guiding nexus for future development and pedestrian-scale uses in two major downtown Bellevue growth areas. Residents, visitors and downtown employees will enjoy new retail, restaurant and attractions, supported by public parks, open spaces, amenities and events—all bringing Downtown Bellevue to life more than ever before.”
Several different design proposals for Grand Connection have been proposed. One of these is the ‘Lid Park,’ which would comprise approximately 200,000 square feet of plaza/open space between NE 4th and NE 6th Street. Other options include a sculptural bridge and a linear bridge crossing I-405.
Concurrently with the Bellevue Straits project, Vulcan Real Estate is also looking to capitalize on Bellevue’s booming real estate market through a large-scale redevelopment project, named Bellevue Plaza after the original center. Ultimately, the two-tower project, which will total more than one million square feet upon its anticipated completion in the fourth quarter of 2022. Similarly to the potential impact of Bellevue Straits, the hope is that the development will become a new focal point, which capitalizes on its location in an evolving area.
“Location played a key role in our decision to build office at the Bellevue Plaza site,” Robert Aaron, senior director of real estate marketing and leasing for Vulcan said to The Registry earlier this year. “It is one of the best office locations on the Eastside, presenting the unique opportunity to create a campus-like setting with a large outdoor mid-block plaza and elevated terraces with stunning views.”
Increasingly across the Puget Sound region, members of the AEC community are striving to implement more creative approaches when it comes to repurposing outdated infrastructure in high-density and high-traffic areas. One example in Seattle is the re-envisioning of the Battery Tunnel, which was completed in 1955 and has since served as a major thoroughfare in Seattle and the primary connector between the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Aurora Ave. N.
The tunnel’s decommissioning, however, has sparked a movement to save the structure—and create viable public space once the road closes. A community initiative called Recharge the Battery is spearheading the effort to find an alternative use for the tunnel. Around thirty design proposals were to the City Council in the Spring of 2018, including one by The Miller Hull Partnership, an architecture firm based in Seattle and San Diego, California. “We’ve always been passionate about what we could do in Seattle to elevate its thinking and envision a better connection to the environment,” said David Miller, founding partner at Miller Hull, who became involved in the initiative in 2017.
Further north, in Everett, the in-the-works Grand Avenue Park Bridge Project along the city’s waterfront—which LMN Architects and several other architecture/engineering firms designed—initially began solely as an infrastructure project, and then became a way for the city to provide pedestrian access from Grand Avenue Park to the waterfront, ultimately becoming a community amenity.
The longer-term hope is that Grand Connection will not only act as a community-oriented destination for city residents, but will also serve as a much-needed example of how to transform underutilized existing transportation infrastructure on the national regional scale.
“The crossing of Interstate 405 represents more than only improved mobility and access for pedestrians, cyclists, and alternative transportation modes. It represents an opportunity to transform the area east of the interstate, the Wilburton Commercial Area, as a new area of opportunity and Bellevue’s next urban neighborhood,” the proposal states. “Cities such as Seattle, Philadelphia, New York, Dallas, and Edina, Minnesota have, or are, pursuing full or partial lids over their interstates, creating opportunities for public space while mitigating the negative impacts of the interstate below.”