Shopping at the Marketplace at Factoria, T-Mobile’s headquarters, residential neighborhoods, and convenient access to freeways likely come to mind when one thinks of Bellevue’s Factoria neighborhood.
Today’s vision is a far cry from the smokestack-filled industrial center that once was envisioned for the area.
According to the City of Bellevue’s Factoria Subarea Plan, promoters once touted the area as a soon-to-be hub of industry, with coal smoke “belching from hundreds of smokestacks.” Promoters had expected at least 20 plants, but more than a decade later, only the Factoria School had been constructed, and the proposed industrial town of Factoria never came to fruition.
“There were original visions for heavy industry, lots of smokestacks, and industrial production of different (goods). The heavy industry vision never really took off, and, I think, the Eastside at large never had a very heavy industry base,” said Jesse Canedo, Bellevue’s chief economic development officer.
The logging industry, however, was an important player in the area and remained so until the 1920s. As noted by the City of Bellevue, land-use patterns evolved from early timberland, logging, and farming between the 1920s and 1950s to the residential and commercial developments witnessed today.
“With the coming of the highways — both I-90, the bridges, and then 405 north/south — the area really was re-envisioned as a prime site for office and housing, and that’s how it was developed. That’s the legacy we have today,” Canedo said.
Today, Factoria’s commercial and residential development continues to thrive. Perhaps one of the most notable commercial developments is the major renovation of the T-Mobile headquarters.
Unveiled in November 2018, the goal of the multi-year $160 million renovation was to add new services for employees, dining options, and other amenities, as well as indoor-outdoor spaces for employee collaboration, and a modern pedestrian-friendly area reminiscent of The High Line in New York City.
“Having just reupped its Bellevue lease through 2030, T-Mobile and its landlord Ivanhoe Cambridge have broken ground on a $160 million renovation that — over the next three years — will transform its Northwest headquarters into a modern, inclusive, personalized, connected, and flexible workplace to better support innovation and collaboration among employees,” T-Mobile said in announcing the news.
As a member of Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct program, T-Mobile stated that it is committed to powering the headquarters using 100 percent renewable energy by 2021. Furthermore, “The redesigned headquarters will be the first corporate campus in the United States to achieve a Fitwel certification, a wellness standard that promotes a comprehensive approach to a healthier workplace through increased physical activity, accessible design, access to healthy food options, natural lighting, and outdoor spaces.”
There’s also the multiphased remodel and revitalization of the Marketplace at Factoria, located on Factoria Boulevard, that was initially proposed to the City of Bellevue in 2018.
“Kimco (Realty) is looking at doing about 700 multifamily housing units and about 150,000 square feet, net new, of commercial space. That’s all part of their long-term plans for redeveloping and repositioning the mall campus. In the last six months, we’ve seen quite a few new food and retailers coming into the mall. Kimco is doing a great job of retenanting the mall to bring in new life, refresh the space, and make it more inviting and exciting for Bellevue residents,” Canedo said.
Kimco Realty expects the full build-out to generate an additional 200 weekday peak-hour trips.
Also underway are significant transportation investments, including new transit infrastructure, off-street cycling/walking paths, and I-90 improvements.
“There are some good transportation investments happening in the neighborhood. The city completed the Eastgate Transportation Study in 2019, which included the Factoria area. So there are a couple of big developments that are coming out of that,” Canedo said.
More specifically, the plan calls for, among other enhancements, additional bike lanes in the area of Eastgate Way to provide stronger connections for bicycle commuters, and intersection improvements along Factoria Boulevard at Southeast 38th Street. Canedo said construction is slated to begin on these two developments this year.
Future developments include improvements to the Mountains to Sound Greenway, a 100-mile-long corridor along Interstate 90 that features hiking and biking trails. Plans include a pedestrian-bicycle path, a pedestrian-bicycle bridge over Factoria Boulevard, a tunnel under the existing I-405/eastbound I-90 ramps, the relocation of portions of the trail, and additional lanes on the I-90 eastbound off-ramp to Factoria Boulevard. According to the City of Bellevue, construction is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
“And then, of course, the big long-term move, the big dream is 2041, when there will be two light rail stations adjacent to the neighborhood,” Canedo added, referring to the South Kirkland to Issaquah light rail.
According to the city, this project will create a second Eastside Light Rail Line between the South Kirkland Park and Ride and Issaquah, via Eastgate and central Bellevue. The project is expected to open in 2041, with early planning work beginning in 2026.
With such developments in the pipeline and no smokestacks in sight, how will residents envision Factoria in the years ahead?
“I think the neighborhood will become very strongly associated with the Mountain to Sound Greenway once that project wraps up and that connectivity is created,” Canedo said.