City of Bellevue sparks transformation with a public-private partnership
Seattle’s Eastside City of Bellevue finds a creative solution for transforming a light industrial corridor into a lively, transit-oriented, walkable neighborhood
The City of Bellevue is transforming an industrial corridor into a lively, transit-oriented, walkable neighborhood.
Approximately 4 acres
Approximately $100 million development cost
City of Bellevue on Seattle’s Eastside
Host to some of the world’s most innovative technology companies, the City of Bellevue has become the economic hub of the Seattle region's Eastside. While downtown Bellevue is a thriving live-work-play ecosystem, the Bel-Red industrial corridor east of downtown has not yet reached its potential. Now, the City is undertaking a visionary public-private partnership to accelerate the transformation Bel-Red into a large, vibrant mixed-use community, and advance the delivery of community development goals in a way that is most financially feasible for the City.
The catalyst for the transformation is the extension of the Puget Sound Transit Authority’s light rail system (Sound Transit) from downtown Seattle to Redmond, Washington, including two stops in Bel-Red. The promise of a new transit option coalesced with the City of Bellevue’s ambition to transform Bel-Red from a light industrial and auto-oriented commercial corridor to a robust, vibrant mixed-use neighborhood.
“To realize an ambition of this magnitude, it’s critical to have the right expertise on your team. We needed a clear view of the economics of the redevelopment to create an RFP that would attract top national developers.”
A key piece of Bellevue’s vision is to redevelop publicly owned parcels in front of the future 130th Avenue Station in the heart of Bel-Red. New housing will be the key to creating a dynamic, walkable neighborhood, with a broad range of housing types to meet the needs of a diverse population.
Adding creative spark is the area’s potential to become an arts district, capitalizing on the presence of arts organizations nearby. The redevelopment program also includes a parking garage, pedestrian-friendly shops and community space for hosting outdoor activities or a farmer’s market—replacing the current environment of sprawling buildings and roads that often lack sidewalks or pedestrian access.
Creative funding for an ambitious vision
Following several planning and design studies, the City of Bellevue recognized that its visionary efforts would require creative funding solutions. It enlisted JLL to develop scenarios for a public-private partnership (P3) in which the private partner would undertake the redevelopment inclusive of the amenities in order for the City of Bellevue to minimize its financial exposure and accelerate delivery.
The opportunity is enormous—but the challenges are significant, too. Without prior in-house P3 redevelopment expertise to draw on, the City of Bellevue recognized that outside expertise was needed to support the significant analysis and planning necessary to ensure that the partnership is a win-win for both parties.
To create a request-for-proposal that will attract qualified developers, the City is working with JLL to understand the economics of each development component. Financial analysis involves, for instance, understanding potential rental rates for commercial components of the redevelopment, and analyzing construction costs for affordable and market-rate housing projects, parking, open space, and community elements.
Solving the parking challenge
Parking is a particularly challenging and complex cost component. In agreement with Sound Transit, the City of Bellevue seeks to create 300 park-and-ride parking stalls near or on the redevelopment site for transit users. It also may require temporary “swing” parking options as the project is under development. However, building a public parking facility in Bellevue is costly. To fully understand the costs, the P3 team must first determine the extent to which building underground parking—leaving surface land free for development—is a feasible assumption, or whether other strategies can be accommodated.
Advancing the vision of successful P3-driven transformation
As the P3 project team continues its advance research and planning, the 130th Avenue Station redevelopment is already attracting interest from across the region. Public, private, and nonprofit organizations recognize the potential of the redevelopment to serve as a catalyst for the larger area.
In spring 2021, the City of Bellevue will collaborate with JLL to craft a RFP that clearly defines the project vision, components and economics. Based on thoughtful analysis and detailed market knowledge, the RFP will be designed to attract proposals from proven, qualified developers nationwide in a competitive process.
The City of Bellevue has launched a major undertaking to reinvent a large light industrial area into a lively, pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented neighborhood. It’s a bold vision—and it requires a strong foundation of smart planning and creative catalytic solutions informed by real-world expertise.