The immediate station area of BelRed station
BelRed Station is bordered by two construction projects bringing hundreds of homes. (The Urbanist)

Near Bel-Red Station, more than 3,500 new homes have been built or permitted since 2017.

East Link TOD Series: As Sound Transit prepares to launch the East Link Starter Line on April 27, The Urbanist is going station-by-station to look at transit-oriented development (TOD) via our “East Link TOD” series. Back in 2022, we warned that some East Link neighborhoods were squandering their TOD opportunities, but there are a few success stories, too, like Downtown Bellevue and the Spring District, our first two installments. Let’s continue our journey along the 2 Line…

After carving out the Spring District light rail station area from BelRed, the rest of the larger neighborhood is relatively underdeveloped, despite a second station (called Bel-Red Station) less than a mile to the east. BelRed has historically been characterized by industrial parks, car servicers, and strip malls that’ve been squished between a highway and a single-family neighborhood. Changes have come to the area with development activity around Bel-Red Station in the form of a grapeshot of apartments and townhomes.

Bel-Red Road is fronted by car businesses like this one, but has seen some lowrise and midrise housing added. Bellevue’s zoning has stymied development in most commercial districts outside of the downtown core. (Doug Trumm)

BelRed’s zoning map has produced distinct clusters of development in the neighborhood. There’s an immediate bunch of apartment projects around the light rail station, a band and node of townhomes, and an eastern offshoot. Given Bellevue’s red hot housing market, even townhomes have sold for more than $1 million at times. Some BelRed townhomes (albeit relatively large four-bedroom homes) have recently sold for $1.3 million.

The City of Bellevue's zoning map zoomed into Belred
BelRed’s zoning. You can see the main cluster in magenta. (City of Bellevue)

There is also a void of development in certain parts/zones around the station, particularly where single family zoning blocks opportunity or where developers seem to be waiting for more generous zoning changes and a stronger market to develop.

Where construction is happening

The current construction activity in BelRed is where you’d expect it, mostly within a superblock of the light rail station. 1525 132nd Ave NE and 13238 NE Spring Blvd are right next to the station and under construction. They’ll be an eight-story, 298-unit mixed-use building with 9,600 square feet of retail, and 303 parking stalls and a seven-story, 249-unit midrise with 163 parking stalls, respectively.

A little farther out, 12853 Northup Way and 13000 BelRed Road will be pretty close to done when 2 Line starts service. They’re a nine-story, 402-unit mixed-use building with 81 of those units being affordable, 6,540 square feet of retail space and 364 parking stalls, and a seven-story, 172-unit mixed-use building with 8,154 square feet of retail space and 213 parking stalls, respectively.

In permitting, other projects in this cluster include…

  • 13201 NE Spring Blvd
    • A project similar to the Alexandria project proposed in the Spring District. DJC reported that this project is proposing six apartment buildings with 932 units between them, four office/life science buildings totaling 288,330 square feet, and 1,364 parking stalls. This project is very early in its permitting and could see change, especially with likely zoning changes in 2024/25.
  • 1831 130th Ave NE
    • A seven-story, 238-unit building with 187 parking stalls.
  • 13013 NE 20th St
    • A seven-story, 187-unit mixed-use building with 3,300 square feet of retail space and 110 parking stalls.

To the northwestern and southern peripheries of BelRed, a flurry of townhome development has been churning away. To the northwest of the light rail station, two large townhome projects have popped up on parcels that are zoned for lower density housing. 1733 127th Ave NE and 12727 Northup Way are planned to have 171 townhomes between them across 31 buildings, parking here is planned for two per unit or 342 total. South of BelRed Road is a band of even lower density zoning that has seen a few lower unit townhome projects. 1543 139th Ct NE has been the largest townhome project constructed here, with 49 townhomes built in 2017.

Off to the east, Bellevue has seen some developer interest in the “BelRed Commercial Residential” zoning. The projects here are still in permitting or have yet to break ground, perhaps due to the incentive zoning program and low base floor area ratio of 2.0. In other words, they have to give more to achieve densities similar to projects under construction around the station. So far, these projects include…

  • 13800 BelRed Rd
    • A six-story, 188-unit building with 37 parking stalls.
  • 14125 NE 20th St
    • A two-building, seven-stories each, residential complex with 397 units, 81 affordable, and 397 parking stalls.
  • 14400 NE BelRed Rd
    • An eight-story, 201-unit building with 203 parking stalls.

So far, BelRed hasn’t had the transformation seen in its neighboring stations, as two of its largest projects are still in permitting. However, it has already taken on more of a residential character compared to its neighboring Spring District station area. So far more than 3,500 residential units have been built since 2017, are under construction, or in permitting.

Only around 300,000 square feet of commercial space is proposed in the station area with almost all of it being proposed in a project in its infancy. This combination of mixes has also meant that parking isn’t being built at the rate seen in its peers with only around 4,000 stalls built, under construction, or in permitting.

  • Wilburton sees the biggest jump in housing capacity under the City's 2044 preferred growth plan, followed by BelRed and Crossroads. Downtown sees a modest increase in capacity, since it already included the most capacity of the areas.
  • The City's preferred alternative for the comp plan would actually decrease jobs capacity in Downtown Bellevue to increase the emphasis on housing.

Nevertheless, BelRed is being set up for a more dramatic transformation, as Bellevue’s land use plans for BelRed will channel much more development capacity into the neighborhood. Plus, the biggest parcels around the station haven’t seen any proposals at all. Housing and jobs capacity in BelRed could be doubled if the preferred alternative of Bellevue’s comprehensive plan update is adopted. While that may not necessarily mean that high rises are coming to BelRed, it could make way for the range of seven- to nine-story apartment buildings developments to grow past the current superblock radius and into the neighborhood more broadly.

Introducing the 2 Line development map up to BelRed station

Now that we’ve got a good list of projects, let’s build out a map!

With the proper nurturing, both in terms of zoning and basic infrastructure (e.g. a functional street grid and bike network), BelRed has the makings of a truly mixed-income section of Bellevue where the working class can actually afford to live. Getting the details right will be important if that is to come to pass. Bellevue’s comprehensive plan update seems poised to allow large enough apartment buildings to cater to the region’s workforce and affordable homebuilders. But the City will have to ensure such projects don’t hit other snags and that affordable housing projects are sufficiently funded.

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The Urbanist staff occasionally teams up to cover breaking news or tackle large projects. See more about our team on the staff page.