Bellevue hosts Eastside mayors forum to discuss light rail, business

Eastside mayors weighed in on Bellevue's light-rail drama and plans for downtown development at a forum June 16.

Five Eastside mayors met to discuss issues of Light Rail and business at a forum in Bellevue June 16. From the left

Eastside mayors weighed in on Bellevue’s light-rail drama and plans for downtown development at a forum June 16.

Five cities were represented at the Bellevue Downtown Association event, but mayors from Redmond and Issaquah were unable to attend.

The most anticipated topic was the development of light rail on the Eastside.

Residents in Sammamish pay about $10 million into Sound Transit coffers and are lucky to see a bus pass through town, said mayor Don Gerend. “We’re not too enthused about Sound Transit’s long-term plans.”

In contrast, Mercer Island Mayor Jim Pearman was pleased that the rail was coming through the island, envisioning at some point increased traffic could support a hotel.

Bellevue’s Mayor Don Davidson continued to stand by his commitment to the B7 line, a route which differs from Sound Transit’s preferred location.

Support for B7 split the otherwise agreeable council, and has been the cause of an unusual amount of drama.

Kirkland empathizes with Bellevue’s situation, said Mayor Joan McBride, whose comments on the topic were limited to, “I’m glad it’s not Kirkland.”

Considering Seattle’s drama over the Alaska Way Viaduct, when it comes to transportation projects someone will always be unhappy, said Bothell Mayor Mark Lamb. “I think it’s important to put that in context.”

With Bellevue’s new towering skyline as an example of what city planning can bring about, moderator James Whitfield asked mayors what their downtown plans are.

Sammamish doesn’t want to look as urban as Bellevue, Gerend said. The youngest city, it just now has plans to zone a downtown area and to build a community center.

Mercer Island is in a similar boat. The city focused new development on the center of the island with mixed-use condos and apartments, in order not to affect single-family homes, Pearman said.

Bothell presented the most ambitious plans, the complete reworking of its downtown to return access to the river front.

With new student housing at its University of Washington campus, it’s planning to become a college town with great business parks, Lamb said.

In Kirkland, plans are underway to rebuild its Park Place, a large complex a few blocks from its waterfront.

Kirkland is now turning its attention to Totem Lake Mall, said McBride.

This statement comes after the Kirkland Reporter published a series of stories about the downfall of mall.

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