Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seattle Times: Bellevue budget shortfall amid Bel-Red revamp

Bellevue and the Bel-Red development slows its pace to match the reality of the economy.

An ambitious plan to turn Bellevue's Bel-Red neighborhood into a bustling, urban center with a downtown Kirkland-style heart has run into an obstacle — a $100 million shortfall in the city's capital budget. . . .

The current budget proposal from City Manager Steve Sarkozy includes work on roads critical to Bel-Red, such as $32 million in design work for the future Northeast 15th Street, but excludes more peripheral projects, like the $2 million expansion of Northeast Second Street, which would help funnel traffic out of downtown.

The city must keep moving quickly enough to keep the confidence of investors like Wright Runstad, which has partnered with the city for the Bel-Red neighborhood. The Seattle developer bought the 16-block swath once occupied by Safeway's distribution center.

The city's ambitions for the area center on Wright Runstad's plans to build more than 3 million square feet of office space, 1,000 residences and parks in a style similar to Kirkland's downtown and roughly as big as Seattle's Pioneer Square. Sound Transit also is planning a light-rail station on the site.

Greg Johnson, president of Wright Runstad, said the company sees recovery in the apartment market and is moving forward with planning and development for multifamily buildings on the site, with the goal of having buildings open by 2013 or 2014, he said.

"There couldn't be a better time to do public-private [projects] because of the bidding environment," he said.

The city has committed to design work for Bel-Red and has tried to position itself for some projects for federal grants, both of which are important, Johnson said.

Bellevue has a reputation as forward-thinking and reliable when it comes to making public policy.

"We don't want them to slow down any more than they have," Johnson said. "They're debating whether they want to keep pace on projects or shift priorities. We're advocating keep the same priorities and at least commit projects to keep pace on design."
Bellevue budget shortfall amid Bel-Red revamp, Seattle Times Newspaper