Bel-Red corridor set for an “aggressive” overhaul


Bellevue’s city council will vote Feb. 17 on guidelines for a makeover of the Bel-Red corridor, where over a thousand jobs have disappeared due to business relocations and shutdowns in recent years.

The proposed subarea plan would convert 900 acres of mostly-industrial land into mixed-use development, creating a companion district to the downtown area.

The changes are expected to generate 10,000 new jobs and 5,000 additional housing units by 2030.

“This is a far-reaching plan,” said Bellevue Planning Director Dan Stroh. “It’s one of the most aggressive planning efforts in the region.”

Sound Transit’s East Link light-rail line could eventually run through the corridor if the agency decides to place its tracks there instead of along Highway 520.

The Bel-Red subarea plan has been over three years in the making.

One of the primary concerns during that time has been the expected loss of independent businesses.

The city's plan has many residents asking where they'll get their cars fixed once mixed-use developments start moving in, and shop owners in the affected area aren't exactly keen on getting bumped out.

“I understand what they're trying to do – increase the tax base and all that – but they're going to drive small businesses out,” said Ray Glover, the general manager of JB Factory Carpets. “I'll be pushing daisies by the time this all happens, but this is a family business. My children will have to face this problem.”

Among other concerns during planning were traffic and building heights.

Residents and property owners are generally opposed to taller structures near the far eastern portion of the Bel-Red corridor.

A steering committee has recommended that the city set a height limit of 70 feet – up from 60 feet – in that area, stepping down to 45 feet near 156th Avenue Northeast.

The tallest buildings along the corridor would be 150 feet.

The city plans to build a new road that would stretch Northeast 16th Street westward to Overlake Hospital in order to create extra capacity in the Bel-Red area.

The proposed subarea plan calls for new parks, as well as bicycle and pedestrian connections for the roadways. It also provides incentives for developers to use environmentally-friendly designs and requires the uncovering and restoring of headwaters for Kelsey Creek.

Additional “green” benefits include the reduction of sprawl through densification, and lowering greenhouse-gas emissions by keeping people out of their cars.

The city expects it will need $500 million in infrastructure improvements to achieve its vision, with funding coming from both taxpayers and developers.

“This plan has caused a wholesale rethinking of the infrastructure that will be needed to serve it,” Stroh said.

The city is working on incentive plans that would allow developers to buy their way into higher densities, thereby providing some of the funding for infrastructure and mobility improvements.

Joshua Adam Hicks can be reached at 425.453.4290