Bellevue has two concepts for new waterfront park

The city of Bellevue has pitched two alternatives for what is expected to become a striking new waterfront park at Meydenbauer Bay.

The project would remove several blocks of housing and possibly eliminate public moorage and a portion of 100th Street Northeast.

The new 10-acre space would include what are now Meydenbauer Beach Park, Bellevue Marina at Meydenbauer Bay, and several residential lots in the area.

Land acquisition for the park dates back to 1953, with the final purchase taking place in December 2007.

Both of the city's proposals include a terraced plaza, viewing platforms, water features, an expanded swimming beach, and underground parking with between 100-160 stalls.

Among the other elements under consideration are a floating boardwalk, a café, vendor kiosks, and an uncovered stream that would provide environmental-education opportunities.

Just how much the project will cost is unknown at this time.

“We haven’t gotten into the funding yet,” said project manager Mike Bergstrom. “We’re not even in that ballpark yet.”

The venture has already cost over $43.6 million in land acquisitions, although the city used non-tax sources such as grants and moorage fees to pay for 31 percent of that figure.

Another $728,668 has gone toward consulting fees.

City planners are considering a possible closure of 100th Avenue Northeast south of Main Street to provide the new park with an uninterrupted pedestrian entry from downtown.

“It’s a very contentious issue,” Bergstrom said. “A lot of people who use that road would like to see it remain as is.”

Not all residents are opposed to the idea of losing that section of the avenue.

“It’s kind of a ‘nothing street’ – more or less a driveway,” said Bellevue resident Lin Wilson, who lives a few blocks away from the proposed park. “I wouldn’t have any heartache if they closed it as long as all the properties nearby retain access.”

City planners have indicated that closing the end-portion of 100th Avenue Northeast would strengthen the park's visual presence and improve pedestrian access.

It also reduces the potential for conflict with automobiles and provides additional space for an ADA path in the sloping park, according to planners.

The drawbacks to closing a section of 100th Avenue are that it would leave the proposed cafe and boathouse without street frontage and cause traffic delays along Main Street.

A new signal at the intersection of Main and 101st Avenue Northeast could mitigate the latter impact.

Another area of concern for residents is the potential loss of slips at Bellevue Marina.

“There’s a lot of interest in the moorage,” Bergstrom said. “A lot of people think we shouldn’t remove it at all.”

The city is working on zoning changes for the park's surrounding neighborhoods, and has already enacted a building moratorium for the area.

Among the zoning changes that City Council is considering are a doubling of the density requirements, expanding retail and relaxing setback restrictions for the properties south of Main Street.

Bellevue's affordable-housing inventory is bound to take a hit as the new park replaces multi-family homes.

There are currently 51 residential units on the properties that would work for families making 80 percent or less of the area median income.

The city is working on plans to increase its stock of affordable housing by providing incentives for new units in the Bel-Red area.

One of the goals of the proposed park plan is to strengthen Bellevue's reputation as a waterfront city.

“The city has very little waterfront access that’s public,” said project manager Mike Bergstrom. “This project provides another open-space opportunity that we just don’t have.”

Many Bellevue residents have noticed the shortage.

Tatiana Marshall said she was disappointed to find that there wasn’t more waterfront access when she and her family moved to the city in June.

“We checked out (Bellevue Marina), but it looked private,” she said. “I think it would be great to build a park there. Access to the waterfront is always a good resource.”

Construction of the new park is likely to take place in phases, with the first stage taking place around 2015, according to city officials.

The city council is expected to take action on a park master plan by early 2010, following the review of an environmental impact statement and public meetings.

Joshua Adam Hicks can be reached at jhicks@bellevuenews.us or(425) 453-4290.