The Bellevue City Council will hold a public hearing at its virtual meeting next Monday to consider a development agreement for a long-planned mixed-use apartment/retail project at the Crossroads Shopping Center on a site just north of the Michaels store.

The shopping center’s owner, San Diego-based Retail Opportunity Investments Corp. (ROIC), is proposing the six-story structure to contain 224 apartment units on the top five floors. Some 14,500 square feet of ground-floor retail would face the mall, with a 253-stall underground garage. At least 20 percent of the units would have affordable rents at or below 80 percent of the median King County income. Any unit 300 square feet or less would be categorized as a very small dwelling unit and have an affordable rent at or below 45 percent of the King County median income, according to the development agreement.

Stuart Tanz, president and CEO of ROIC, hopes the approximately $70 million project could break ground in early 2022, with occupancy by about mid-2023. The Crossroads center is located at the intersection of 156th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Eighth Street. The project site currently serves as surface parking.

A development agreement is required because City code has prohibited multifamily development in the Crossroads Subarea north of Eighth Street since 2015, except through a Council-approved development agreement that includes public benefits and appropriate project design. The agreement between the City and Terranomics Crossroads Associates (an entity of ROIC) includes outdoor gathering areas, public open space, and affordable units as enhanced public benefits, according to a notice for the May 10 meeting.

In addition to providing 36,820 square feet of landscaped open space in an opportunity zone for public gathering, the project’s trails are meant to improve pedestrian flow, access, and safety between the Crossroads Park, Community Center areas, and the mall. The agreement requires the public benefits to be installed before a certificate of occupancy is issued for the project.

The project’s public benefit projects are key, Tanz said.

“(It’s) very important that there’s that synergy between the park — this is a work live, play environment, as you might say — and it’s very important that … we blend everything in so people have the ability to move around freely and really enjoy all the amenities that not only the shopping center brings, but the park and other things for the community,” he said in a phone interview.

The apartments will sit adjacent not only to the park and community center, but scores of mall tenants such as grocer QFC, Regal Cinemas, Crunch Fitness, and dining. Among the dining options is the recently announced Dick’s Drive-In opening later this year. It will be located just north of the proposed apartments.

“That’s why this project works so well,” Tanz said of the myriad surrounding amenities. “These type of projects have really been very successful across the country in various cities and municipalities because … it really incorporates a place that you can work and live, and really an environment that you can’t find in many other locations.”

This aerial view shows the landscaped open space opportunity zone area in the lower right, which would feed toward the Crossroads Community Center and provide an inviting connection between the shopping center and community center/Crossroads Park areas. The building on the right edge is Stone Gardens climbing gym. Michaels is to the left, out of view. And the main Crossroads mall area, with Jo-Ann Fabric, Bed Bath & Beyond, and more are in the low-rise buildings pictured at the top of the image. Rendering courtesy of MG2.

Bellevue Crossroads is a top-performing asset in ROIC’s portfolio of 88 West Coast shopping centers, Tanz said.

The roughly 35-acre mall, with almost 500,000 square feet of leasable space and 93 tenants, has been in Bellevue since the 1960s. It has been significantly modernized and improved as a gathering place over the years, including under former owner Ron Sher.

“Crossroads has been part of the community for decades and the focus of this project has really been to serve the local community — that’s what Ron Sher had in mind when he bought this … property 35 years ago,” Tanz said. “Ron is a shareholder of the company and he wanted to make sure that when we did our transaction that we continued along with his vision. This is really Ron’s vision that he had for many decades, and I’m proud to tell you that this is really just carrying forward with Ron’s vision of Crossroads and, more importantly, what’s important for the community.”

The project’s public benefits elements emerged from an ROIC survey of the Crossroads community in January 2019 that drew almost 500 responses. Respondents prioritized connections between Crossroads Park and Crossroads Mall and community gathering spaces, according to City documents. The project, with the development agreement, is expected to deliver public benefits that advance the vision for the Crossroads Subarea, the City says.

ROIC also owns the nearby Bellevue Marketplace at Northeast 20th Street and 148th Avenue Northeast.

“We have a vested interest, obviously, in the City of Bellevue, a big vested interest, and we’re proud to be landlords and owners there, and have had a very good working relationship with the City,” Tanz said. “The City has been great.”

ROIC has 19 properties in Washington. Other Eastside locations include Bridle Trails in Kirkland, Canyon Park in Bothell, Four Corners Square in Maple Valley, Gateway Shopping Center in Marysville, and Meridian Valley Plaza in Kent.

As of March 31, ROIC’s 88 shopping centers encompassed about 10.1 million square feet. ROIC says it’s the largest publicly traded, grocery-anchored shopping center real estate investment trust focused exclusively on the West Coast.

Its portfolio was 96.9 percent leased at the end of the first quarter.