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November 2013

New Kind of Neighborhood

breaks ground in Bellevue

November 2013

Six years after being announced, a project that will transform a Bellevue warehouse/grocery distribution district into what developers call "a new kind of neighborhood" has broken ground. Called The Spring District, the 36-acre transit-oriented neighborhood will encompass "urban style housing," plus offices, retailers, restaurants, parks, and a hotel, all built with a "focus on sustainability" and mobility choices, which will include nearby light rail.

Greg JohnsonGreg Johnson, president of Wright Runstad & Company, outlined the plans and timetable for the $2.3 billion project during a meeting of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. His Seattle-based company is partnering with San Francisco-based Shorenstein Realty Investors Eight on the joint venture.

Groundbreaking and demolition of a long-vacant warehouse started in mid-September, with initial occupancy in Phase One targeted for 2015. A neighborhood marketing center is slated to open in 2014. The master plan anticipates a 15-year timeline for completion, with nearly 5.3 million square feet of buildings spread over 16 city blocks.

"We're in it for the long haul," Johnson proclaimed during his presentation to Chamber members and guests.

Johnson said the launch of construction was timed to coincide with converging demand for urban real estate and human resources. He noted the area's strong demand for housing and tight inventory, reflected in part by a 4.5 percent vacancy rate for apartments. He also cited growth data, including projections for 135,000 new residents in the next three years. On the commercial side, one focus will be tech companies which already lease or own an estimated 27 million square feet of space.

Developers visited dozens of high density and transit-oriented neighborhoods in their quest to blend centuries old design principles with contemporary design priorities. "It will be more than buildings," he emphasized. Plenty of amenities are planned to help tech companies attract and retain the world's best talent and to meet residents' expectations for a unique urban experience.

The first phase of the development, which is about a mile from the heart of Bellevue, will include a residential component of 320 apartments. Various plans and price points will be offered in hopes of appealing to a cross-section of the area's diverse population (minorities comprise 41 percent) and work force, from young professionals to families headed by service sector workers who are drawn to Bellevue for its top-rated school system. Rents will be a "notch" under downtown Bellevue, probably in the range of 5-to-15 percent lower.

Architecturally, the developers plan a collage of streetscapes, with an emphasis on spaces for mingling and walkability. Although designers have been selected for the initial phase, different architects will be chosen for subsequent buildings to help assure innovation and variety. Buildings will be designed to LEED standards, according to Johnson.

Asked about the origin of the new neighborhood's name, Johnson explained Spring District is intended to reflect the area's rebirth and new season.

Wright Runstad has developed more than 16 million square feet of office space over its 41-year history. The real estate, development and operating company boasts an array of buildings from Anchorage to Los Angeles. One of the recent projects in its portfolio was the restoration of Husky Stadium on the University of Washington campus.

Spring District

Spring District

Spring District

Images by Studio 216