Tour of the Spring District

Here Comes the Neighborhood: Bellevue’s Spring District

What was once 36 acres of warehouses (including a former cold storage warehouse where Amazon beta-tested their Amazon Fresh home grocery delivery service) and surface parking has been transformed into the newest urban neighborhood in Bellevue, Washington: The Spring District.

Developer Wright Runstad & Company, with joint venture partner Shorenstein Properties, has spent the last 15 years creating the 16-block transit-oriented development, now home to hundreds of residents and thousands of employees of some of the world’s most innovative organizations.

At CRE.Converge this week in Seattle, tour attendees had the opportunity to hear from the developer, architect and city planning director about the vision and collaboration that brought the multibillion-dollar project to life.

Greg Johnson, Co-CEO, Wright Runstad & Company, shared how the neighborhood’s short blocks, narrow streets and curbside gardens were designed with people in mind. Pedestrian-scale elements provide character and create places to explore and linger. Cars almost feel like an afterthought; all parking is underground in garages.

But a sprawling, decades-long, multibillion-dollar project is bound to have its challenges. A light rail station is planned but progress has stalled following recent construction issues. REI planned to move into a brand-new headquarters in The Spring District June 2020 — then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Johnson recalled getting a call from the CEO of REI who told him the company would not be occupying the space. Thankfully, Wright Runstad & Company was able to pivot and facilitated a sale of the property to Meta, already a tenant in The Spring District.

Today, all office space in The Spring District is fully leased, compared to a 10.5% office vacancy rate in downtown Bellevue and almost 25% in downtown Seattle, according to The Seattle Times. The development includes 800 residential units (also fully leased) and ground-level retail, including a daycare center.

A big draw for many tenants and occupants is the Bellevue Brewing Company, which opened in The Spring District in 2012. “When you look at successful mixed-use neighborhoods, they all seem to start with a brewery,” Johnson said with a laugh, naming the LoDo District in Denver as an example. No mystery why the two office floors above the brewery went for the highest rent.

Johnson estimates The Spring District is about three-fifths complete. There are plans for 1.5 million square feet of office space, though “the future may take a little while given where the market is today,” Johnson acknowledged.

Featured image courtesy Wright Runstad & Company.

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