Urban living to bring change to Bellevue housing

“It’s definitely not your parents’ Bellevue.”

“It’s definitely not your parents’ Bellevue.”

Matthew Gardner, principal with Gardner-Johnson, a real-estate land-use economic advisory company, told members of the Bellevue Downtown Association that the city is doing “a 180 degree shift” in how it defines how people live.

“If you look at history as being an indicator, in the past the wealthy lived in the suburbs and the not so wealthy lived downtown,” Gardner said.

That’s changing in Bellevue, he noted.

“My expectation is that the younger demographic is going to be here and they’re going to be renters and they’re going to be owners,” Gardner said. “They understand urban living and they want to be urban.”

Gardner’s presentation was part of a reassessment by the BDA of the city’s Downtown Implication Plan. First assembled by the city in 2003, the plan forecast the rapid pace of growth in Bellevue over a 20-year span, from 2000 to 2020.

On the housing side, the plan was thought by some to be overly ambitious, forecasting about 9,000 new housing units over a 20-year period, averaging 450 units each year. According to the market’s current standings, the BDA recently acknowledged that the actual growth is panning out as planned.

“Accounting for all projects under construction or in review or on the pipeline and watch list, there remains excess capacity within that 2020 horizon,” said Leslie Lloyd, president of the BDA. “The Bellevue downtown housing market has appeared to fair better than other parts of the region and we haven’t had any major slowdowns between 2000 and now.”

Gardner added that business growth also plays a role.

The Bravern project originally was to have 30,000 square feet of retail when it was first proposed, but now will have 300,000 square feet of mixed-use with an office component.

“It’s really quite a spectacular project for Bellevue and certainly pioneering,” Gardner explained.

Gardner also said the Bellevue Towers and Washington Square are similar examples of classic mixed-use development.

“We also now have Elements too in the works, displaying unique architecture, and Two Towers being built on leased land which is quite unusual,” he said.

Another factor Gardner touched on was the impact jobs have on the housing market.

“Jobs create demand for housing units – there’s no question about it,” Gardner said, adding that Bellevue is no longer the demur sibling of Seattle. “You can look at every land use as far we’re concerned, residential or commercial and you’ll find lease rates, rental rates at parity or finding Bellevue slightly more than downtown Seattle,” Gardner explained.

He also listed the time value element as one of the reasons that Bellevue’s housing market is doing well. Gardner pointed out that people are considering the value of their time and this forces employers to open corporate offices approximate to where the staff live.

“With power players such as Microsoft employing 10,000 new employees, you’ll see a shift of people moving from Seattle into Bellevue,” Gardner said. “All of these changes, in addition to the potential light rail project will drive the demand for residential housing units in Bellevue.”

Lindsay Larin can be reached at llarin@reporternewspapers.com or 425-453-4602.