Monday, March 9, 2009

A Meeting with the Mayor: Wanna Buy a $6.5million Red Apple?

FOR SALE: BGN Properties Inc. Stod's. Built in 1969. 1.72 acres/75,100 square feet. Appraised value: $1,180,000.00

Newport Hills Shopping Center plus two "line stores" and "DQ" drive-in. Rainier NW University LLC. Built in 1963. 5.24 acres/228,400 square feet. Appraised value: $6,543,900.00

A PROJECTED TWO-YEAR planning process got underway last Thursday night at a meeting at Newport Hills' Bank of America. Mayor Grant Degginger was in attendance, along with the City's Neighborhood Planner Cheryl Kuhns and Economic Development Director Bob Derrick as well as Bellevue City Council member Conrad Lee. In the audience were about 40 or 50 concerned neighbors and merchants. Newport Hills Community Club ran a great presentation, with special credit going to President Cheryl Nygaard and Vice President Julie Rossman for encouraging inclusiveness by asking for written questions from the audience and using a large aerial map of our neighborhood business area to keep our focus in mind.

In his opening remarks, Mayor Degginger cited the new Newport Heights Elementary as a "game-changer," It puts Newport Hills on the radar and gives us a central focus. The City of Bellevue, he said, will now facilitate the neighborhood's community-building efforts by involving the community in future development decisions.

Degginger goes on to say that Newport Hills is now at the "top of the list" of six or seven similar neighborhood business centers in desperate need of an overhaul, and "now is the happy time" for Newport Hills to achieve theirs. One model to watch is Lake Hills' neighborhood business center,pictured below, nearing the end of a lengthy planning process and the subject of a previous entry in Red Apple Elegy. The developer there is Cosmos, and the record of ups and downs the neighborhood has gone through with them is lengthy, and instructive.

A lot of questions were answered at last week's meeting and will be answered in the Newport Hills Community Club website blog. A lot more remain unanswered.

Chiefly, how will the city assist in this planning process? As voiced by the Economic Development Director it appears to be to lure developers with promises of density allowances. He says there are four serious proposals on the table, now that Stod's is on the market as well. All of these involved mixed use, four stories of residential above base retail and office.

This is what would pencil out for the developers. Is this something like The Renton Landing? (See photo, right) We don't really have any other visual model to go by. He pointed to developments in the Bellevue CBD (Central Business District) and proposed development in the Bel Red Corridor, both of which inhabit a much larger footprint.

The neighborhood's focus is much more on tenants: Trader Joe's, PCC, hardware store, etc. as well as programming: swapmeets, community events, farmers market and sustainable gardens. In short, a Main Street model. Even thriving Crossroads Mall is set up on a "Main Street" pattern.

At busy West Seattle Junction, a classic model for Main Street, there is only one floor of residences above a row of shops.

Step 1: The mayor's first suggestion was to come up with a neighborhood working group who could identify a shared vision to present to prospective developers. The city is more than ready to work with us at this time.

This means that in a couple of years we'll have the beginnings of a plan.

1 comment:

Caffe Lento said...

A customer told me that my shop was mentioned in your blog, so I just had to check it out. Thanks for the comment in your earlier post. Do stop in and introduce yourself if you're ever in the neighborhood.

But I have a somewhat disappointing update on the Lake Hills "development." As of April 1, my neighbor the Vacuum Clinic is no longer. Apparently the owner just wasn't getting enough walk-in traffic to justify a storefront. Come the end of April, Atarah Salon will also be closing, with the stylists all headed to other salons. Also at the end of April, George's Wine Shoppe is relocating to the somewhat more vibrant Kelsey Creek shopping center. Then, sometime in July, rumor has it that the Dept. of Licensing is closing, with its staff being reassigned to other offices.

Since last year, I believe we've lost 5 other businesses, so this will bring the total to 9. It's gonna be a ghost town....

-Elena A.