Parks, growth, transit and affordable housing were just a few of the topics discussed at the Bellevue Downtown Association’s April breakfast event as Mayor John Chelminiak and Deputy Mayor Lynne Robinson presented their State of the City address and answered questions submitted by attendees.
Beginning with city parks, Chelminiak outlined several city projects during his presentation. Underway right now is the expansion of Maydenbauer Bay Park, which he said was a vision the city had more than 30 years ago finally being put into action. The expansion and reworking with help to connect the waterfront to the downtown core which is, Chelminiak said, something the city has lacked.
“The lesson is, and I think this is the lesson about Bellevue, think big, think long term, stay with it and get it done. That’s also the story of so many things in Bellevue Including our incredible downtown,” he said. “I’m looking forward to opening the first phases of this park…hopefully later this year.”
Chelminiak also discussed the Wilburton-Grand Connection initiative, a project what will connect Meydenbauer Bay Park and the Wilburton commercial area in Bellevue. The connection is designed to create more non-motorized pathways in the city as well as link more people to the Eastside light rail corridor.
“We’ve got have to make what we call a grand connection — that is a connection between downtown and Wilburton across 405. We’ve got that for cars. The grand connection will be this connection for people, for bicycles, even possibly autonomous vehicles that will work as shuttles,” Chelminiak said. “It’s really an incredible vision the City Council has put together and this year. We are in the design guidelines for it and we are looking at coming up with exactly how we will span 405.”
The mayor also discussed Bellevue’s place as a center for business and the benefits and challenges that brings, specifically, issues of traffic and housing. Chelminiak said the city is developing new roads and connections as well as working on an update to the Bellevue Smart Mobility Plan as a way to outline the strategy the city is taking to address traffic issues.
Chelminiak said that in addition to seeking affordable housing for low-income citizens, Bellevue must also pursue housing for the middle income range as well.
“I talk about attainable housing. How do we have a mix of housing that is attainable? A diversity of housing that is attainable for all people at all levels,” he said. “People who make $30 and $40 an hour cannot afford to live in Bellevue. The crisis of housing and the cost of housing has moved from a social issue to one of core economic competitiveness.”
In the question and answer section of the presentation Robinson explained that council has worked with a team of housing experts to develop a plan for the city. That plan consists of incentives developers can use to promote affordable housing alongside market-rate housing and creating a budget to create and retain affordable housing availability.
“We have 350,000 employees commuting in and out of Bellevue every single day. If we could create more affordable housing, in addition to the planned-transit-oriented development that we have going into Bellevue, that’s going to give a lot more employees an opportunity to live where they work,” Robinson said. “That’s not only good for employees that’s good for business.”
Closing out the presentation, both Chelminiak and Robinson were asked for goals they would like to accomplish in the next two years.
Robinson said getting the land use code amendment finished so the city can site a homeless shelter and fully implement a housing strategy are just a few of her goals for the near future. Chelminiak, who is in his last two years on the city council and as mayor, said he is excited about the grand connection development and the improvements to city parks.