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Response mixed to Spring District
Bellevue's Spring District, said to be modeled after Portland’s Pearl neighborhood, has promised to remake the 16 city blocks into a bustling new corridor. A public meeting Feb. 7 produced a mixed response to the Wright Runstad project.
Residents were happy to see the project come to fruition, but skeptical about its’ long-term impact on traffic levels, livability and future construction.
“This is a once in a lifetime project,” said Randy Benedict of architecture firm, NBBJ. “It’s not often we get to reintroduce 36 acres to the city.”
The development will be rolled out in phases, paralleling growth with a future light rail line. Benedict told the crowd that trips to Colorado, Arizona and San Francisco had informed the design. Special attention was also paid to the materials used, like steel and concrete masonry to maintain the area’s industrial feel.
“Really, this isn’t about the development of buildings,” said Benedict. “…It’s really about the human story that evolves around this space.”
Among the Spring District’s most notable projects are two office buildings, 11 stories and 9 stories in height, occupying a total of about 532,080 square feet. The project also will demolish a warehouse, leave space for a brewery, and make site improvements like pedestrian pathways.
Speaking for many in the audience, Dan Wren of the Wilburton Community Association, expressed concern about the traffic patterns and density generated by the whole of the Spring District and Bel-Red Road.
“It’s nice to talk about the Spring District, but...there are still many condos for sale from 2008, that haven’t been sold...I want to be careful we don’t overbuild the area, that we don’t have a lot of empty construction there.”
Other neighbors, said that crime had been on the rise in the form of burglaries and assaults. They noted that Wright Runstad had spent much of the presentation outlining the benefits for future residents, and hoped the same attention to detail would paid to improving general quality of life for the community.
Others reiterated earlier concerns about environmental impacts.
“During the next 15 years of development, there’s a lot of potential for major catastrophes that could happen to the lake...We just want to make sure the city takes this into consideration,” said Tom Wallin, chair of the Lake Bellevue Water Quality Association, “because part of the determination of non-significance they issued [during a hearing examiner appeal process] was ‘we’ll deal with this when building permits are applicable.’ Well, here we are.”
Wallin added that while he welcomed the new neighbors, after years of pollution the lake was in a very fragile state. With millions of dollars of real estate along its perimeter, protecting it he said, would be critical to future property values.
Above all, residents agreed that the city and Wright Runstad would need to act on current and future traffic conditions.