Retrofitting the Suburbs

While there’s still an abundance of superblocks and surface parking, downtown Bellevue’s skyline is has left suburbia far behind. Shown above is the nearly completed Bellevue Towers luxury condo project, with twin towers topping out at 450 feet. That’s just five feet shy of Seattle’s tallest residential tower, Olive8, and ten feet taller than 1521 Second.

Designed by MulvannyG2 and GBD Architects, and developed by Gerding Edlen of Portland, the project consists of 539 condo units, 16,000 sf of retail, and 904 (!) parking stalls on eight (!) levels. The project is targeting a LEED Gold rating, and is expected to consume 30 percent less energy and water than the “industry standard.” (All those exposed balconies that work like heat fins aren’t going make achieving that energy efficiency goal any easier.)

Bellevue Towers was made possible by downtown upzones that were a result of city planning efforts stretching back more than two decades. Over that time, the City’s desire to encourage more dense development has become reality, particularly in the most recent cycle. Needless to say, sales at Bellevue Towers have been below expectations.

In the bottom left of the photo above is the Bellevue Transit Center. And check out all the special paving designed to emphasize pedestrian use. And yes, those are real people out there walking around.

Like countless Amercian cities, most of the built environment in downtown Bellevue is still relatively alienating to the pedestrian. Given the nature of the bones, it’s a staggeringly massive undertaking to retrofit these places for people, and for the realities of life in the 21st Century. Kudos to Bellevue for taking on the challenge.