Bellevue council commits to Newport Hills signage

After hearing more public testimony about the plight of the Newport Hills Shopping Center before a standing crowd of resident supporters, the Bellevue City Council directed staff during Monday night's meeting to come back to them with a viable plan to help direct shoppers there through Coal Creek Parkway signage.

The shopping center has had its ups and downs over the years, said Michelle Hilhorst, shopping center liaison for the Newport Hills Community Club, and about 80 percent of its storefronts are currently full. But many businesses there are struggling and may soon leave if they can't attract more customers.

"Newport Hills cannot survive the loss of more of our businesses," community club president Heidi Dean told the council. "We're on a roll right now."Hidden away off Coal Creek Parkway and other arterial roads, the problem is visibility. Community club members say informational way-finding signs on the parkway and at other arterials could prevent services the shopping center offers from being skirted for other nearby communities.

Deputy Mayor Jennifer Robertson said she didn't see any reason why informational signs can't be erected on the parkway near Southeast 60th Street, and received council support Monday to start the process.

"It's something worth saving, I think, and helping," she said.

"This is the frustration," added Councilor John Chelminiak. "We should be able to do this."

Bill Pace told councilors he expected customers at his Mercer Slough Blueberry Farm would follow him to his year-round produce market in Newport Hills, which he opened in May, but that hasn't happened. He said he worries how long he can continue a business there.

"Bill's not lying," said Hilhorst in an interview with the Reporter on Tuesday. "He's desperate. We're desperate."

Pace's store was a welcome addition after the shopping center's anchor store, Red Apple Market, was shuttered in 2009. It was soon followed by Newport Hills Drug, which had a powerful effect on the community's elderly residents, said Hilhorst. Other businesses to close recently were the Bank of America and Cy's Hallmark.

"We need something to better let people know we exist," said Hilhorst. "There's so many amenities that we have up there that … you drive by (Coal Creek) and you wouldn't know it."

While some councilors are hopeful signage can be installed by the end of the year, Hilhorst said she hopes it happens sooner, because businesses like Bill Pace Fresh Fruit and Produce may not last that long.

"We are really at that cusp of do or die."


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