As Big Tech’s Eastside Presence Expands, Bellevue Preps for More Commuter

Incorporated in 1953, during the heyday for cars, Bellevue was originally built for the automobile.

Back then, planners designed wide six-lane arterials meant to move vehicles fast. The road grid creates 600-foot-wide superblocks on former farmland.

Now, tremendous growth is straining transportation. Traffic stacks up during afternoon commutes, and Interstate 405 slows to a crawl.

As Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and others grow their Eastside workforces, City staff anticipate a net gain of roughly 18,000 downtown jobs by 2025, joining the more than 52,000 people who currently work in the city core.

Roughly translated, this would boost employment higher than the current numbers in Seattle’s busy South Lake Union.

But local leaders acknowledge remaking a car-dominated landscape doesn’t happen overnight. The City aims to cut the share of downtown commuters who drive alone to work to about one-third by 2035, a reversal of today’s pattern where more than two-thirds drive alone.

To do this, they’re planning for trains, buses, bicycles, walking, vanpools — and maybe even autonomous vehicles — to keep people moving.

In past years, the Bellevue City Council voted to create a safer walking network by converting Sixth Street to a 60-foot-wide, tree-lined walking corridor and shortening a street to complete its circular Downtown Park.

Instead of narrowing six- and seven-lane streets with so-called road diets, Bellevue’s approach to reducing car-pedestrian conflicts relies on skybridges around Bellevue Square, and altering some traffic signals to give walkers a head start at intersections. Smaller streets include walker-activated amber flashers.

Large employers and city officials are also counting on the $3.7 billion Sound Transit East Link light-rail line — projected to serve 50,000 daily passengers when it opens in 2023 — to handle many of the new commutes.

New bike lanes on 108th Avenue Northeast serve a trickle of riders for now. More bike lanes are planned on Main Street. Just east of I-405, the 42 miles of abandoned BNSF railroad tracks are being redeveloped for bicycle riders and pedestrians as Eastrail, spanning from Snohomish to Renton.

Bellevue’s growth spurt won’t necessarily translate into massive public-transit ridership, however, at least in the short term. Private transit is adapting faster.

With aid from a $100 million federal loan, the city has created or widened 11 streets between Wilburton and the Spring District east of I-405 where REI’s headquarters, Facebook and other companies are locating.

That follows citywide spending of $5.5 million to equip 197 intersections with adaptive signals that continually re-time to move clusters of approaching vehicles.

And the permit paperwork for the planned 43-story Amazon tower shows 1,175 underground parking stalls (nearly double the 632 spaces in the current parking garage that this new tower will replace).

On I-405, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will build an express toll lane each direction between Renton and Bellevue, to open in 2024, along with exit-only lanes to clear departing drivers off the mainline.

The existing carpool lanes will be converted to a second toll lane each way. Sound Transit will follow with new bus-rapid transit and park-and-ride lots.

Finally, in perhaps its most lofty vision yet, The Grand Connection is a sprawling pedestrian and cyclist pathway that would stretch between Meydenbauer Bay Park on the west, through Main Street and downtown, and across the freeway to Eastrail. With a bridge or park lid above I-405, just south of the nearly completed Sound Transit rail bridge, design concepts show amphitheater steps, sculptures and a row of ginkgo trees.

Unlike the longer Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle, the Grand Connection would encourage people to linger at cafes and parks. As a traffic-free shortcut, it would reduce the need to drive and park at downtown spots.

There’s no funding yet. Costs vary based on whether Bellevue builds a full park like Mercer Island has over I-90, or a thin bridge, for around $130 million.


A version of this article was originally posted on U.S. News by Michelle Baruchman

And on Blog

Posted on January 27, 2020 at 11:05 pm
Heidi Renee | Posted in Housing Market, Local Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , ,



Seattle is growing up, literally, when it comes to its housing market, ranking fourth among the 30 largest cities in the country in an assessment of cities with most high-rise apartment complexes built over the past decade, a recent RentCafe study shows.

High-rise apartment buildings represented 9% of all new multifamily development in the city over the past decade, up from 5% in the 1990s, the study found.

“Of the 26 residential high-rises delivered in the last decade, six were skyscrapers (of 40-plus floors),” according to the report by the apartment-search platform RentCafe. “No wonder the average number of floors for all types of apartment buildings in Seattle went from five in the ’90s to eight in the current decade.”

Ranking ahead of Seattle on the high-rise apartment front is New York, with 112 projects developed between 2010 and 2018, followed by Chicago, at 71; and Philadelphia, at 27. Trailing Seattle is Boston, with 24 high-rise apartment developments over the period, followed by Dallas, at 23; and Los Angeles and Houston, with 20 each.

For the purposes of the study, a high-rise is defined as a building with 13 or more floors while a skyscraper is defined as a property with more than 40 floors.

“Seattle witnessed a veritable residential high-rise boom in the last decade,” the RentCafe report says. “The number of completed apartment high-rises [in the city] jumped from three in the ’90s to a significant 26 in the ’10s.”

The trend toward high-rise apartment development in Seattle is likely to continue in the coming decade, as Seattle Business reported earlier this year.

Seattle has seen the number of jobs and people living and working in downtown grow by nearly 40 percent over the past decade, giving rise to a report from the Downtown Seattle Association that contends unless Seattle adjusts its zoning guidelines, the downtown area will have “only a few viable sites for the next development cycle.”

One solution is to expand vertically, rather than horizontally near mass transit stations, allowing mid- and high-rise development projects that create densely populated vertical neighborhoods — mini-downtowns — that combine housing, restaurants, shops and offices.

This past March, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a controversial plan to rezone for more intensive use, or “upzone,” portions of 27 neighborhoods and several commercial corridors, which encourages denser development and more high-rise buildings.


This was originally posted on Seattle Business Magazine by Bill Conroy

Found on Blog

Posted on January 9, 2020 at 10:28 pm
Heidi Renee | Posted in Housing Market, Local Real Estate News | Tagged , , , ,


The median income in Seattle reached more than $93,000 in 2018, jumping by close to $7,000 from the previous year, according to data released this week.

The data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed the median household income in Seattle was $93,481. Still, thousands of individuals in Seattle were making far less — with many earning amounts making it nearly impossible to afford the cost of living in the city.

The data showed of the 338,002 households analyzed, more than 19,000 were making less than $10,000. Another 27,621 households were making between $10,000 and $24,999 a year. About 20% of households in Seattle were making $34,999 or less per year.

On the other end, close to 100,000 households were making between $100,000 and $199,999 with more than 60,000 households making$200,000 or more a year.

The data found the median income in Seattle was far above the national median income, which was at $61,937 in 2018. Nationally, between 2017 and 2018, the median income increased by less than 1%. The median income in Washington was just more than $74,000. The poverty rate in Washington also declined slightly to 10.3% between 2017 and 2018, according to the data.

Among black households in Seattle, the median income was just $42,527 — far less than the median income among all households in the city. About 17% of the nearly 20,000 black households tracked made below $10,000 in 2018, according to the data. About 45% of black households made less than $34,999. About 20% of black households made $100,000 or more.

Of the more than 641,000 individuals over the age of 16, 470,517 were in the labor force, according to the report, and 17,000 were counted as unemployed. More than 170,000 were not in the work force.

The census data shows a wide range of incomes, representing individuals living in poverty and those making far above the median income.

A report released last month also showed Seattle ranks near the top for most expensive cities in the country.

According to a study released late last month, Seattle was ranked the seventh most expensive U.S. city to live in. A cost of living study published by The Council for Community and Economic Research on the second quarter of 2019, found Seattle ranked below cities including New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The city had previously ranked fifth in the index. The study uses research on the cost of “housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services.”

Seattle and King County have recently been trying to address issues of housing and affordability, putting forth various solutions and proposing new affordable housing units. Officials have also grappled with how to provide housing and services for the more than 11,000 homeless individuals living in King County.

This was originally posted on seattle pi by Becca Savransky. And on the Blog

Posted on November 5, 2019 at 4:27 am
Heidi Renee | Posted in Local Community, Local Real Estate News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,