Urban Grocer Coming to Downtown Bellevue

applesUntil recently J.C. Penny was the anchor store at the south end of Bellevue Square. J.C. Penny vacated that 200,000 SF space in November and within days demolition began for six specialty shops scheduled to open later this year. According to Kemper Development Company, these shops will represent national and local brands. What is unique about this renovation is the plan for an urban grocery store. A grocery store in an urban shopping mall isn’t a new idea. If you’re a long time Bellevue resident you might remember there was an A&P grocery in the original Bellevue Square shopping mall. The store will be ä unique kind of urban grocery store” according to Kemper Freeman.

“This will be a Whole Foods or equivalent. It may or may not be a Whole Foods, but if you think of Whole Foods this will be pretty close.”

                                                                     Kemper Freeman

There are already three downtown grocery stores  –  Safeway is just south of Bellevue Square, a large QFC is across the street to the north and H Mart recently opened on 108th – the new grocer has not yet been named but is expected to be announced soon.  All are within walking distance for the nearly 50,000 people who work downtown daily and the 12,500+ residents living in the city. With continued commercial and residential development increasing the number of people living and working in the central business district, growing demand will likely support another grocery, especially if it offers a unique, boutique-tupe experience and one-of-a-kind or hard-to-find items. With the many annual events and event venues downtown and continued growth, there will be more demand for opportunities to pick up a prepared gourmet dinner-to-go, picnic lunch in the park or everyday shopping before leaving work and heading home.

Who would you like to see as the new urban grocer?  Whole Foods and Metropolitan Market are both popular, recognized local brands and could be a good fit for a new city location. Zupan’s Markets, a Portland grocer, was rumored many years ago to be considering space at Washington Square. Stay tuned.

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Completion of Bellevue’s Downtown Park

downtown-park-circle-drawingThursday evening the City of Bellevue hosted a public open house to share the proposed plans for completion of the park’s promenade, water feature and expansion of the playground.

The 21 acre park was constructed in the 1980s but the circular promenade has remained unfinished. Construction is scheduled to start in mid July to complete the promenade, enhance the south entry and add a water feature, add a small terraced amphitheatre and expand the existing parking lot on the west side of the park (along 100th Avenue NE) by 100+ spaces.  (The completion of the promenade will eliminate the existing parking lot at the southeast corner of the park.) The City of Bellevue, in partnership with Bellevue Rotary Club, will expand the playground. The existing popular playground structures will be retained; plans show the addition of accessible play and equipment opportunities to create a universally-accessible play experience for all ages and abilities. Construction is expected to take 10 months with the goal to have the park expansion finished for the 2016 July 4th celebration.

More information on the park completion and playground can be found at www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/downtown-park-complete-circle.htm or www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/inspiration-playground.htm.

More Walkable . . . More Desirable . . . More Value

sidewalkWalkable neighborhoods are in high demand.  Today’s buyers favor communities that offer a mix of housing, amenities and services and walkability to workplaces. In a National Association of Realtors® Community Preference Survey, two thirds of those surveyed ranked walkability as an important factor in choosing where to live. Neighborhoods with a mix of housing, shopping, dining and businesses that are easy to walk to were highly preferred over neighborhoods that require more drive time between home, work, schools and recreation.

Communities with greater walkability tend to have higher resale value as well. Walkability plays a big part in a city’s economic vibrancy and desirability. Around the world, some of the most valuable real estate is in walkable metros where people are living and working in closer proximity. Pedestrian and bike friendly streets, access to amenities, entertainment, recreation, work and schools rank high in today’s “must have” list for buyers, outranking square footage, outdoor space and even parking. A wallkable lifestyle, combined with the availability of short term car rental services, reduces the need for multiple cars or a car altogether.

Downtown Bellevue is an excellent example of a walkable urban neighborhood. The city offers level streets and easy access to workplaces, restaurants, shopping, arts and entertainment venues, city parks, health care and award winning schools. Several mixed use projects currently under construction will add more retail and dining opportunities and the addition of light rail in a few years will further enhance the city’s livability and desirability.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Greg Douglass.

Condominium Financing has More Moving Parts – What You Need to Know

house on moneyApplying for a loan to purchase a home requires time, effort and patience. When that home is a condominium it can be more complicated. As with any mortgage, the buyer must qualify for the loan, but with condos the community must also qualify in order for the buyer’s mortgage to be approved. Some of those additional loan requirements may include:

  • at least 50% of the units must be owner occupied
  • no more than 15% of owners may be more than 30 days delinquent on monthly dues
  • the HOA must have adequate budget reserves and a                                                   reserve study
  • the HOA must have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • there can be no construction defects or other pending litigation

Lenders review the HOA’s resale certificate and may also request budgets, financial statements, reserve study, minutes and insurance documents as part of the loan approval process. If there is any concern about the community’s financial health or if there are other issues, the buyer’s financing could be denied, jeopardizing the sale..

When buying or selling a condominium there are many moving parts. Work with a Realtor® and lender experienced in marketing and financing condos. Find out what you need to know before listing your condo for sale or before buying a property in a condo or HOA community. The more you know, the less opportunity for problems or issues in the transaction.


Downtown Bellevue Public Art – Did You Know . . .

Located at the Bellevue Connection (formerly the Bellevue Galleria)

BELLGATE @ the Bellevue Connection

 DID YOU KNOW . . . there are nearly 130 pieces of public art on display throughout downtown Bellevue. Public art can be found in parks, public courtyards, office building outdoor plazas, City Hall, the library, transit center and many other locations. The pieces are part of both public and privately owned collections. As you walk around downtown its tough to miss many of the pieces but some are in unlikely locations. Pick up a tour guide and take a walking tour to see how many pieces you can find. Tour maps are available at City Hall or can be downloaded at  www.bellevuewa.gov/arts_program.htm

Condos – Creating Big Ideas for Small Spaces

photo by Nicholas Boullosa

photo by Nicholas Boullosa

The popularity of city living has created high demand for urban living options. While a chic city townhome or luxury flat may satisfy your desire for a maintenance free lifestyle, transitioning from a large house to more compact city digs can be challenging. The “tiny house” movement, a lifestyle and philosophy that has become popular in recent years, may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it has created new ways of thinking about living space, efficient ways to use space and inspired innovative design and storage options. You may not be ready to call a 300 SF studio home, but if you’re thinking about downsizing, here are resources for maximizing the functionality of smaller living spaces.

  • Pinterest.com and Houzz.com have hundreds of photos and ideas for built-in and free standing storage and furniture. Search tiny houses or living small for ideas.
  • Though a little quirky, tinyhousetalk.com has some interesting, alternative ideas.
  • Search Sunset.com for small home design ideas or ideas for small spaces.
  • houselogic.com – a great resource for more creative storage ideas
  • Most furniture stores now feature small scale or condo size furniture and functional multi-use pieces. (In the Bellevue/Seattle area visit Kasala and BoConcept)
  • Wall beds immediately transition bedrooms into multi-use space. With comfortable queen or king size mattresses the designs can be customized for extra storage, office use, etc. (Search Wallbeds Northwest, California Closets, Closet Factory, Seattle Wallbeds, Northwest Closets & Wallbeds for ideas.)

When thinking about a smaller residence, consider what is needed vs. what is wanted. You may no longer need a formal dining room but prefer casual entertaining with friends and family gathered around a large kitchen island. Smaller, multi-use technology devices make it easy to convert a nook or stairway landing into home office space. Guest bedrooms double as office, den or library space. Think outside the box and have fun with the process.  With a little creativity small space challenges can be easily resolved.