Seattle has an impressive collection of construction cranes from Sodo to South Lake Union, but this side of Lake Washington also is a veritable minefield of soon-to-be mixed-use developments, walkable neighborhoods, and light rail lines.
The mixed-use construction projects in car-centric Eastside communities, such as Kirkland’s Parkplace and Totem Lake Mall redevelopment, Bellevue’s Spring District, the Central Issaquah Project, and Bothell’s downtown revitalization, signify a shift in the minds of developers, employers, and residents alike.
The Puget Sound Regional Council’s 2014 Travel Study said — not surprisingly — that affordability was the No. 1 concern in choosing a place to live for Eastside residents. But the preference for walkable neighborhoods, which central Seattle residents prioritized, is slowly transferring to the Eastside. Ten years from now, Bellevue and Redmond will have a newly completed light rail system, the Spring District will be complete, and the Central Issaquah Project will be well on its way to changing the way we think about Issaquah. And maybe, just maybe, Downtown Bellevue will be putting less emphasis on parking lots, and instead it’ll be running a light rail or trolley on surface streets replete with bike lanes.
While current plans don’t allocate a light rail extension for Issaquah, the city is taking a proactive look at development within its borders. By concentrating new development in the downtown area through the Central Issaquah Project, it is creating what could be a vibrant mixed-use area, complete with green space to keep hold of its small-community charm.
Bellevue is beyond saving when it comes to that small-town feel, but by developing the Spring District and downtown separately, it will have the beginnings of neighborhood-centric development that is associated with our western neighbor across Lake Washington.
Kirkland is getting into the neighborhood game, too. Earlier this year, its city council approved rezoning measures that paved the way for the Parkplace redevelopment to move forward. With the recent sale of the Totem Lake Mall, which has had redevelopment written all over it for a decade, the city will have a downtown and an uptown under construction, each with its own vibe.
In addition to newly minted housing, office, and retail space, the Eastside is girding its loins in preparation for the East Link light rail project that will strip across Bellevue on its way to Redmond. Construction is slated to begin this year and will include an underground tunnel. Perhaps more so than any other factor, East Link will seed unique, walkable neighborhoods that are the norm in Seattle and Portland.