The City of Bellevue, Washington

Posted by Randi D. Berge on December 20, 2013 in My blog |
The City of Bellevue in Autumn

The City of Bellevue in Autumn

This is not Seattle

It’s easy to look at Bellevue and think of it as a suburb of Seattle. Most people know where Seattle is; Bellevue, not so much. Once upon a time Bellevue was seen as a bedroom community with the mall – Bellevue Square as the identity of the city.   It was as if there was nothing else in Bellevue worthwhile. I can understand this point of view.  After all I-405 divides the west side of Bellevue from the east and it can be confusing to get around. If you use a GPS the chances are it will take you onto I-405 or 520 to get from point A to point B.  Bellevue can seem like an alien landscape.  Bellevue Square is often seen as the focal point of the city by those who haven’t spent time getting to know the city.  Especially since those elected to office seem determined to turn Bellevue into something she is not.

Bellevue is a rich vibrant city. It is not a clone of Seattle. Unfortunately there are those in city government who seem to be bound and determined to make it into one. Instead of embracing the differences they are all fired up about turning the east side of Bellevue into the same over built and congested mess the west side has become. The development project is known as the Bel-Red Area Transformation. From the City of Bellevue website

The Bel-Red Corridor is a 900-acre area that stretches between State Route 520 and Bel-Red Road, extending from Interstate 405 to 148th Avenue Northeast. Bel-Red is a major employment area for Bellevue, but some large employers have moved out or reduced operations, in part due to changing market pressures in the area.

Between 2005 and 2009, the city worked with businesses, residents and other stakeholders to determine a new role for Bel-Red in the city’s overall plan for growth and economic development. With the City Council’s adoption of a Bel-Red zoning and code ordinance in 2009, the area is poised for transformation.

Sound Transit’s East Link light rail line will pass through Bel-Red into Redmond. To begin operation in 2023, East Link will connect downtown Seattle to Bellevue and Redmond/Overlake. Two stations will be in Bel-Red, offering opportunities for the city to plan for transit-oriented communities around them.

I read that first paragraph and have to ask “what large employers”? Microsoft has more than one skyscraper on the west side of Bellevue. There are equally large corporations all over the place. Plus Bellevue merges into Redmond and Kirkland. You can cross the city line without even being aware. I suspect the real reason city officials are so gung-ho about the development is they see $$$$.

I moved to Bellevue in 2005. I live on the east side of Bellevue in what is known as the Wilburton Neighborhood. The neighborhood was established in 1904. When I first moved to this neighborhood there were trains. There were freight trains heading up to the Boeing Plant in Everett, (now oversize trucks carry those same loads on I-405) the dinner train heading up to Chateau Ste Michelle Winery in Woodinville. If you were driving on NE 8th St., it wasn’t uncommon to get stopped at the train crossing. But the trains have stopped running. The train trestle has gone and city officials are all a twitter about lite rail.

The silliness of the 2008 Bel-Red Area Transformation plan is in full effect. I call it silly because of the negative impact it’s had on the neighborhood. The Wildburton Neighborhood is home to The Home Depot and Best Buy located on 120th. There is a small shopping complex too which has changed a lot since 2005. It now has a Bartell Drugs which is much more convenient than driving over to the Bellevue Square or CrossRoads. Uwajimaya has taken over part of the old Larry’s Market and a wine store has taken over the other part.  120th is a busy corridor with City University and other business complexes lining the street; around the holiday traffic is generally backed up and everyone prospers.

Not so much this year. The Bel-Red Area Transformation plan had up until recently had mind numbing construction along 120th. Some genius at Bellevue Transportation decided this once thriving corridor needed to be widened to five lanes. So this holiday season instead of lines of cars waiting to pull into the Home Depot/Best Buy shopping area; there has been a significant drop in traffic.  It is light; I mean two weeks after Christmas early Sunday morning light.  Yes, construction on 120th has been halted until February.  Unfortunately the damage has been done.  Shoppers who would have normally gone to the Home Depot/Best Buy on 120th see the construction equipment left and the mind numbing congestion that still happens because of the mess left that turns the street into a parking lot far from the Home Depot/Best Buy. 

The Bel-Red Area Transformation plan is supposed to improve traffic and bring more revenue for the city. Although I’m a little confused how this is going to happen when the very project they are so gung-ho about is negatively impacting businesses and citizens. I suspect the real problem lay with the city politicians focus on “large employers” and forgetting small businesses are the real back bone of any city’s economy.

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