It’s no secret that working from home was on the rise before the rise of the coronavirus. Having a flexible schedule with the opportunity to work remotely was a big perk for attracting and retaining employees in a previously strong labor market. Along with a push toward remote work, living close to where you work was increasingly in demand.

But now that we’re all living through a pandemic, working from home isn’t a perk; it’s a requirement of many local governments and companies.

With those crowded, open-concept office buildings of the before times now seeming less like the collaborative work utopias they were supposed to be and more like viral playgrounds, working from home might be here to stay for most office dwellers. Right now, half of the American workforce is working remotely, says a recent study out of MIT.  

That mix of factors makes mixed-use developments — where people can live, work, shop and enjoy outdoor space — especially appealing. Developments like The Village at Totem Lake in Kirkland incorporate many necessities and amenities of daily life within walking distance. When we’re all being asked to stay home to slow the spread of a virus, being able to take care of your essential needs close to where you live isn’t just a nice-to-have anymore.

“In this time of social distancing and the desire to stay safe, these projects allow people to stay connected in a responsible way,” says Jean-Paul Wardy, CEO of CenterCal Properties.

“The attractiveness of the place, especially in today’s environment, is having an open-air environment, where it’s easy to social distance, where you aren’t in a large, enclosed mall, where you can sit outside and have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and just enjoy being outdoors,” says Fred Bruning, chairman of CenterCal Properties. “You could actually walk to your job at Evergreen Hospital or at Whole Foods.”

(The Village at Totem Lake)
(The Village at Totem Lake)

One of the side effects of a prolonged period of social isolation like our region is currently experiencing is, understandably, a deepened sense of loneliness, stress or even depression. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that nearly one-third of Americans are now showing signs of anxiety or depression. A simple way to battle these feelings of isolation is to increase your sense of connection, even in the smallest way, with your neighbors. People watching, going for a walk, chatting with your grocery store cashier or your barista — these actions all help.

“We become friends with many people that visit us,” says Alen Fikic, president of 203ºF Coffee Co., whose flagship location is at The Village at Totem Lake. “Our main focus is forming relationships and community engagement, as well as education on our products and services. We have been fortunate enough to form many great relationships with our regulars, and the amount of support we have received from the community during this time has been nothing short of incredible.”

Alen Fikic, president of 203ºF Coffee Co. (right) and Jaren Shaeffer, store manager.
Alen Fikic, president of 203ºF Coffee Co. (right) and Jaren Shaeffer, store manager.

The Village at Totem Lake includes 852 residential units as part of the property, along with several off-site, privately owned multifamily residential buildings within the immediate vicinity. The result is the type of neighborhood that’s set back from the density of a downtown core, but still connected to the things that make navigating this time a little easier.

Bruning says he’s hopeful mixed-used developments will be a bright spot in our economy once the region begins to emerge from the pandemic.

“The open-air centers are recovering much more quickly than malls are,” he says. “Most malls are still lagging way behind.”

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With so many people shifting to working from home more often, Bruning thinks this will create opportunities for businesses, and especially restaurants, to thrive outside of downtown areas. After all, team lunches and coffee breaks will still happen — they just might not happen in the old places.

“Now with people working from home, people are so much more spread out,” he says. “Post-COVID, I think so many people will work from home a few days a week, and so having options in your area is important. Mixed use allows for all the benefits of being in a downtown, with all the benefits of being in a suburb.”

The Village at Totem Lake in Kirkland is a newly imagined mixed-use lifestyle center with a village feel, gourmet grocery, luxury residential and other experiences. It’s the ultimate gathering place for locals to live, shop, dine and play.