The city of Bellevue’s vision for the Bel-Red Corridor — a beacon of dense, urban, public-transit-oriented living — isn’t quite as rosy as it was on Wednesday.
But it’s far from dead.
The Sound Transit board’s 15-3 vote Thursday in favor of building a light-rail maintenance yard near the future 120th Avenue Northeast station was a blow to the city and to real-estate investors. Both had hoped see those 20-25 acres dedicated to retail or residential development to support the revitalization of the Bel-Red Corridor, an award-winning effortyears in the making.
But now — after protesting the rail-yard location as much as possible — the city of Bellevue is looking for ways to make the best of the change in plans, said city spokeswoman Kate March.
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Representatives of developer Wright Runstad, which along with Shorenstein Co. is behind The Spring District, a 36-acre, $2.3 billion projectthat broke ground last year, did not want to comment this week on Sound Transit’s decision.
Though Sound Transit’s preferred location for the rail yard is not likely to change, there’s still plenty of time to customize the design of the site to reduce as much as possible the rail yard’s negative impact on future development, said Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray.
Motions approved Thursday make it clear Sound Transit’s board and staff need to work with Bellevue’s City Council throughout the design process.
“As we’re moving through the design process, we’ll figure out how you can get as much as possible out of this site by maximizing the full potential of everything in the vicinity,” said Gray.
Among the options considered in the design process will be those the Urban Land Institute was commissioned to research earlier this year by Sound Transit and the city of Bellevue.
In its report, ULI suggested the southern third of the yard could accommodate podium-based development, meaning the development could be built on top of the Sound Transit facility while Sound Transit begins operations at the base of the structure.
Gray said the design process could also help spare businesses near or on the preferred site, such as Barrier Motors’ Audi dealership. Sound Transit has warned the business, which has been at 1533 120th Avenue N.E. for about a decade, there’s a chance it could be displaced.
“It’s really hard to tell what it’s going to look like, but we’re optimistic that we’re going to have a say and look forward to working with Sound Transit,” said Jorge Gonzalez, chief financial officer for Barrier Motors.
Gray said Sound Transit needs the yard, which will cost an estimated $345 million to build, by 2020 to help the light-rail system accommodate additional cars before the opening of the Northgate station in 2021. Light-rail service to Bellevue is expected to debut by 2023.