Date: May 15 – 20, 2016
Location: Bellevue, Washington
Sponsor: The City of Bellevue
Subject Area: Neighborhood Redevelopment and Placemaking in the Wilburton Commerical Area
Panel Chair: Andrew Irvine, RNL Design, Denver, Colorado
Background and Panel Assignment
Located on the east side of Downtown, the Wilburton study area presents a significant development opportunity for the city and broader Bellevue community. Historically, the area has fulfilled the role as a service sector to the city – with its auto row, large format retail and commercial uses, hotels, health and services. Due to Interstate 405 creating a physical barrier between downtown and the site, the City has in recent years addressed this with the upgrade of NE 8th Street and extended NE 4th Street east to 120 Avenue NE. While the scale of these streets serve their role from a traffic perspective, they themselves can create challenges at the pedestrian scale. The panel heard of plans to extend NE 6th street into the study area. This initiative would be beneficial in helping to spread the traffic load into the area and may help enable these important connections to take on a “complete street” role.
As they begin their visioning plan for the future of Wilburton, the City of Bellevue has assigned ULI the following tasks to help shape the city’s recommendations for the area:
- Help develop and refine a clear vision for urban growth and innovation that complements existing city assets
- Recommend ideas to best leverage the new initiatives such as GIX, the light rail and ERC
- Present relevant case studies and precedents to best illustrate the potential of Wilburton
- Steps the City can take in the immediate, medium, and long-term to ensure that implementation of a new vision is successful
Summary of Recommendations
The panel recommends the following overall recommendations for the city, private sector, and community to be mindful of when visioning the future of the Wilburton area:
- Build off existing strength. No silver bullet exists for success in the Wilburton study area. However, building on the strong foundation and new transportation options in the area, the city of Bellevue can create a strong economic engine in Wilburton.
- Develop the Wilburton study area as a complete center that can serve the existing catalytic drivers in the area. The panel recognizes the great anchor institutions and changes coming to the area and urges the city to capitalize them. With these different industries—medical, technology innovation, and downtown commercial— the Wilburton area can foster and promote a diverse economy.
- Enhance the city’s role as entrepreneur. To foster the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit the city is seeking, the panel recommends making business opportunities in Bellevue, starting with the Wilburton study area, easier through clarity of leadership, collaboration, transparency, and accountability.
- Manage the area through the establishment of a four-district framework with supporting operating structure and guidelines. As mentioned previously, with the Wilburton area supporting different industries and anchor institutions, the panel recommends subdivision of the Wilburton study area to focus on different concentrations of land use priorities, scale, and opportunities, including the following:
- The Health and Wellness Cluster: This district is anchored on the two hospitals located in the study area. With a new light-rail station located in the area, this district will continue to serve and expand as a medical hub for the region.
- The Technology Incubator District (TID): With the upcoming GIX campus nearby, this district fosters the innovative spirit sought out by the city. In addition, GIX housing for students and for the startup work force can be developed here.
- Transit- and Trail-Oriented Development (T2) District: This district is the mixed-use heart of Wilburton, taking advantage of trail-oriented development of the ERC and its junction with the Grand Connection. The potential for transit-oriented development opportunities as well as light-rail development makes this area extremely desirable.
- The South of Fourth Street (SoFo) District: Currently where a portion of Auto Row is located, this district has the potential for more compact development. A consolidation of Auto Row into a modern, vertical automotive sales facility with a shared parking garage for inventory is encouraged to better incorporate this district with the rest of the area.