The Eastside is a hotspot for tech companies, including Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. With these companies’ expanding presence across Kirkland, Bellevue and Redmond come new opportunities for growth and development, but also new challenges.
At a recent Eastside Real Estate Symposium hosted by the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, local developers and major employers met to discuss the future of commercial and residential real estate across Eastside municipalities.
One of the area’s major challenges is the growing need for residential real estate. The Eastside’s many anticipated new jobs are bringing massive development of commercial space, with 5.9 million square feet of commercial space under construction, and 9.1 million square feet to come online in the next decade. But housing on the Eastside is tight. Added jobs, amenities and transit – like the Eastlink light rail coming in 2021 – are enhancing the appeal of Eastside living for residents, but can there be enough new housing to match this demand?
To meet the growing need for housing in the area, several developers called for new multi-family residential projects, asking Eastside cities to reevaluate their zoning policies and streamline the construction and approval process to allow for more projects.
But while more multi-family developments could help to house an increasing Eastside population, representatives from Microsoft Philanthropies and Amazon’s external affairs office cited the need to ensure that housing remains affordable for the whole breadth of incomes in the area. On the Eastside, the median income is $100,000 a year, but developers need to consider that high-rise housing units are not always affordable. By working to ensure affordable housing for all through rent-restricted units, developers can prevent residents from becoming rent-burdened by their housing.
Another factor to consider with increased residential projects is parking. Some developers are asking the city of Bellevue to reexamine its land-use policies regarding parking ratios and parking minimums. Adding parking increases the cost of new development – passed along in the form of higher rents or prices. With robust public transit and the Light Rail, it’s likely that some residents and commuters may not have need for parking in the area.
As for the hospitality sector, industry leaders are aiming to entice more in-state travelers to the area while they wait for interstate and international travel to resume. To that end, the restaurant and hospitality sector is short by about 90,000 workers in the area. If they can find the workers to support further economic reopening, then Bellevue could see pre-pandemic lodging levels by 2023 — about a year ahead of Seattle.