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Property owners ease concerns of neighbors in development of Kelsey Creek Center

Neighbors of the soon-to-developed Kelsey Creek Center filled the Lake Hills Boys and Girls Club on Wednesday as city representatives and property owners sat in on an East Bellevue Community Council meeting to hear their concerns.

Residents aired issues regarding what kinds of tenants would be allowed to occupy the area, which the property owner Franklin-West applied to upgrade last week.

They worried about the traffic and noise increases that would come along with new businesses.

But a presentation by the property owners, architects and consultants eased the worries of neighbors. They assured residents that the tenants coming in wouldn't overwhelm the area. A redesign of the vacant Kmart site will split the building into at least three different locations, which leads to the need for smaller businesses within a larger complex.

Under the area's zoning, no retailer can be larger than 65,000 square feet, city planner Mike Upston said at the meeting. The typical superstore, such as Costco, Target or Wal-mart, takes up 120,000 square feet for a smaller location.

The application involves giving a facelift to the Kmart site, which has been vacant for a decade, and the two-story complex that has several ground level shops open at this time. The plan thus far involves the construction of two more buildings.

Many of the neighbors entered the meeting with a number of questions, but the answers of the developers helped their concerns.

"After what you've said tonight, we're in support of what you want to do," said Terry Ayers, who attended the meeting and asked several questions about traffic and noise.

The agreed upon feeling among the audience of approximately 40 was that something had to be done with the area.

Bill Capron, owner of the 76 station across the street from the site, affectionately refers to the site as "Little Detroit." Other residents wanted to see the project complete because they're worried about the kind of "element" hanging out there at night.

In addition to the renovated buildings, the project includes landscape and pedestrian improvements such as new sidewalks. Upston said one of the goals of the project is to help the shopping center interface within the adjacent neighborhood.

Another nearby property, the Shell station, is being developed by Key Bank, but is separate from the property.

Changes in zoning over the summer have made the property more development-friendly.

Previous guidelines required any builder that adds new commercial space to the site to open, or "daylight," a covered stream that now flows through a concrete culvert below the property.

The rule made re-development of the 16-acre site nearly impossible. The property owner plans to make improvements to the adjacent Larsen Lake property to offset any potential harm to the creek.

The complex is currently in the design review phase. Projects that could have an impact on a unique area of town go through this process where members of the public as well as city staff critique the plans to ensure they fit in with the surrounding areas. Upston said the process could take between four and six months before the city decides whether the application is acceptable. The property owners said they have the funding in place and need to begin construction next May to be prepared for peak shopping season.

"It's pivotal that we get started in May, and if it doesn't we'll have some problems" said property owner Nat Franklin. "This time next year, we hope you'll be shopping there for the holidays."

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