Spring District development gets important approval from city

The Spring District, a mixed-use development in the Bel-Red corridor, received a key approval from the city last week. Planners OK’d the master plan for the project, paving the way for development to begin as early as 2013. However, that doesn’t mean planners are done with the process. According to city documents, design review will have to be undertaken for several different parts of the project, as specific designs and uses of the buildings haven’t been designated yet.

The Spring District, a mixed-use development in the Bel-Red corridor, received a key approval from the city last week.

Planners OK’d the master plan for the project, paving the way for development to begin as early as 2013. However, that doesn’t mean planners are done with the process. According to city documents, design review will have to be undertaken for several different parts of the project, as specific designs and uses of the buildings haven’t been designated yet.

“This is kind of the first step in defining the scope of this project,” said Bellevue’s Director of Development Services Mike Brennan.

Residents can comment on or appeal the decision until May 19. An appeal would land the project in front of the city’s Hearing Examiner for further discussion.

Once the appeal time has passed, the project will be like any other development in Bellevue, subject to design review and the normal permitting process.

The project is expected to be developed in several phases over a minimum of the next 15 years. Portions of the Spring District project are tied to the development of East Link light-rail, with plans to build a plaza around a station.

Greg Johnson, president of Wright Runstead, the company developing the project, said the phasing of the project allows for a vibrant area without light-rail. Trains aren’t expected to come until 10 years into construction, so planners had to make sure the project could stand up on its own, without the extra traffic this new mode of traffic is projected to bring in.

When it is completed, the 36-acre development will feature 4 million square feet of office space with supporting retail amenities, up to 1,000 multifamily residences, and a 16-acre open space plan that will include a turf athletic field, a large park and several plazas and green spaces.

Though staff, City Council and developers have worked on the project for years, a few question marks remain. To make the project happen, a number of infrastructure improvements will have to occur, including the widening of 120th Avenue Northeast, and the construction of new streets – Northeast 15th and 16th – to cut through the development. According to a recent city budget estimate, Bellevue may have to budget as far out as 2030 to fund these improvements, with the new streets estimated to cost approximately $90 million. In its budget process, the council has debated how best to pay for these projects, along with light-rail and the many other commitments sitting in front of them over the next 15-20 years.

Johnson said Wright Runstead has worked on the city on multiple large developments over the last few years. In each instance, extensive changes to codes and plans were involved, and in all cases relationships have been amicable.

“This is what the city is doing right now, and is what it has done almost every decade for the last 30 years as it has evolved,” he said.

PHASES OF DEVELOPMENT

Development of the Spring District is expected to over the next 15 years. The developers broke the plan down into seven phases.

Phase 1a – Developers want to begin work in 2013 with the first phase, which involves the construction of 10 new residential buildings, two office buildings with ground-level retail and a park. This development will occur on the southeast end of the property near the intersection of Northeast 12th Street and 120th Avenue Northeast.

Phase 1b – From 2015-2018, this phase will add four new office buildings with ground-level retail.

Phase 2 – Two buildings will be demolished, and the new streets, Northeast 15th/16th will be built. Concurrently, a East Link light-rail station will be constructed. This work is expected to begin in 2015 and end in 2023.

Phase 3 (2020-2022) – Developers will build five new office buildings, and a half-acre park.

Phase 4 (2022-24) – This phase marks the construction of a signature hotel on the property. It will also add another entrance and a plaza to the East Link station and will be located between Northeast 15th and 16th Streets, off 120th Avenue Northeast.

Phase 5 (2024-26) – This development, located just north of the hotel, adds three commercial buildings, and one residential one.

Phase 6 (2026-28) – The final phase occurs on the northwest end of the project. Developers will add one office building and one residential complex to the site.

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