For Spring District neighbors, front-row seats to big changes
Workers and local residents in Bellevue’s Bel-Red corridor express mixed feelings about the coming decade of construction and its final product, known as the Spring District.
Seattle Times business reporter
Aaron Moultine has lived off and on in Bellevue for most of his life, allowing him to see the town grow and expand — especially downtown.
“It has been amazing to watch as all the new buildings go up and the neighborhoods change,” he said while sitting at the front desk of Dan Fast Muffler and Brake in Bellevue, where he has worked for almost 18 years.
Now, Moultine has a front-row seat to the next big development — the Spring District. The auto shop is on the southern border of the $2.3 billion project that started with the demolition in September at the old Safeway distribution center in the Bel-Red corridor.
Over the next 15 years the urban-village development may bring 13,000 office workers, more than 2,000 residents, Link light rail, stores, restaurants and a hotel to a 16-block district less than two miles east of downtown Bellevue.
The area is known for its landscape of aging warehouses, light-industrial shops, strip malls, body shops and self-storage companies.
As demolition begins, some business owners and local residents are expressing mixed feelings about the next 10 years of construction and the final outcome of the Spring District.
“I have hope and some worry,” said Kye Nam Kim, owner of the 120th Deli and Grocery in the Brierwood Center strip mall across from Spring District. “It is going to affect my business. There is already too much competition.”
Upstairs, Chown Hardware showroom manager Doug Moser expressed the same concern for Kim possibly being run out of business, but he did not have the same concern for his own store.
“I think for business, the more the merrier,” he explained. “We want to see more traffic come through this corridor; we are looking on the upside of this one.”
The 36-acre district is roughly a third the size of South Lake Union, and its Bel-Red corridor locale links downtown Bellevue and Microsoft’s Redmond campus. Moser is among those excited at the prospects that new apartments and business could bring with them.
“I’ve been staring at that giant side of a building for the seven years I’ve worked here,” he said enthusiastically, pointing at the demolished wall outside the showroom window. “It is going to be very exciting to have some new development around here.”
Moultine, at the auto shop, assumes that with a new and improved neighborhood, property taxes and rents could increase. He knows that’s a long way off, but said he just hopes an increase in his business will make up for it.
Another concern of those who live and work in the area is traffic.
“I’m an impatient man,” Moultine said. “It already starts backing up at 124th in the afternoons, and that is only truck traffic from the warehouses.”
Greg Johnson, president of the Spring District developing company Wright Runstad, said he knows replacing a warehouse with office and apartment buildings will inevitably bring more traffic. But, he said, the design of Spring District is meant to keep traffic at a minimum.
The Spring District will have its own light-rail station and be designed with walking in mind, he said. The city is also widening many roads throughout the Bel-Red corridor.
Because the corridor is mostly industrial, not many people live close to the work site. The Lake Bellevue Village Condos, however, are kitty-corner, and the community has expressed concerns about the water quality of the lake during and after such a large construction project.
“Lake Bellevue is a natural lake that has been here a long time, and it is a huge asset to everyone in this area, but increased urbanization makes it tough on these urban lakes,” said Michael Link, vice president of the Lake Bellevue Village Homeowners Association.
Last year the association unsuccessfully appealed the city’s decision to approve Wright Runstad’s master plan for the Spring District. However, after the decision, the homeowners association and Lake Bellevue Water Quality Association formed the Lake Bellevue Sub Basin Alliance with Wright Runstad and partner Shorenstein Properties. They are working together to reduce the effects of urbanization and construction on the area’s water quality, Link said.
“Lake Bellevue was rightfully concerned,” Johnson said. “But, from the stormwater runoff perspective, there is probably no worse situation you can have than a giant warehouse that is impervious.”
As the 300,000-squre-foot warehouse is demolished and streets, parks and proper drainage all go into the Spring District, Johnson said runoff shouldn’t be a problem. However, he said, the Lake Bellevue Sub Basin Alliance will work to monitor the conditions of the lake and the runoff.
Coral Garnick: 206-464-2422 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @coralgarnick