The Future of Bellevue, Washington Part 2: East Link, 2035 Bellevue, and the New Ibc Code

This is the second post of a two-part series about DCI’s project experience in Bellevue, Washington. In the last post, DCI’s co-founder Mark D’Amato shared his insight about building in the city and what city planners expect from new development and AEC project teams. Mark was a member of Bellevue’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), a group responsible for reviewing and updating land use codes in the downtown area. This post discusses current events influencing the downtown streetscape.

Downtown Bellevue is currently in a unique position to evolve into an even more vibrant urban center. There is new infrastructure activity, the Bellevue Citizens Advisory Committee’s vision for 2035, and a new International Building Code (IBC) effective this month pertaining to the region. Here’s a brief status on the development factors influencing the city.

Sound Transit is busily preparing East Link light rail which will run between Seattle’s International District to the Bellevue/Redmond/130th Station on the Eastside. Stakeholders and city planners envision a more connected community between Seattle and Bellevue residents and professionals - and more urban services to emerge in downtown Bellevue.

“We saw light rail not just as the other mode of transportation, but really as an economic driver,” said Director of Bellevue’s Transportation Department David Berg in the Seattle Transit Blog.

CAC and the Bellevue City Council’s 2035 Bellevue details the comprehensive plan to position the city for future growth and livability. The plan summarizes council-approved community recommendations on how to develop Bellevue’s economy, housing demands, neighborhoods, and infrastructure through thoughtful urban design, citizen engagement, and encouraging transportation-oriented developments.

From the plan’s “Introduction” section:

“A diversified development strategy is key to Bellevue’s economic future. The city needs to ensure it has the land use and building types that meet the needs of the changing market, and that older commercial areas remain vital and productive economic generators.”

From the “Economic Development” section:

“Importance of livability to economic health requires policy recognition of the importance of investments in urban amenities like the arts, open space and recreational facilities, a healthy natural environment, and quality urban design, as key components of the city’s economic development strategy. Community livability also requires recognizing the importance of affordable and diverse housing options that provide a range of workers with convenient access between jobs and home.

Further, livability requires paying attention to aging buildings and infrastructure that are in decline; they present opportunities to reposition areas to adapt to market changes.”

From the “Urban Design & The Arts” section:

“The development of transit-oriented sites and buildings adjacent to transit facilities present particular opportunities to improve urban design of the area. These facilities and adjacent developments will not only offer quality pedestrian facilities from these busy areas to nearby destinations, but they will operate as gateways into Bellevue and its neighborhoods as well.”

112th Avenue Southeast and Main Street: the location for the future East Main Station. East Link trains will transport commuters through the 2,000-ft long tunnel that goes under downtown.

Northeast 6th Street: the location for the future Downtown Bellevue Station is behind City Hall and adjacent to the existing Bellevue Transit Station.

Other major factors in Bellevue’s future development is the latest IBC 2018/ASCE 7-16 load requirements for buildings in high seismic regions, such as Bellevue. Effective this month, new site-specific studies addressing the Seattle Basin Effect will be required of building designs which are 240 feet tall or taller. Shorter buildings will also be impacted if they are founded on softer soils. IBC classifies soil from A through F - F being the softest soil and most liquefiable during a seismic event. Under the new code, any future building site in the Seattle Basin with a soil rating of D through F will require a site-specific study. Bellevue’s soil conditions are usually classified between C and D, says DCI Principal Tom Xia. Seattle’s soil conditions are usually between C and F. If you have a current building design in Bellevue, Seattle, or other Seattle Basin area, your design is expected to meet higher load requirements to pass the permitting stage. By July 2020, the new seismic code compliance will apply to all buildings with a poor soil rating of D or lower – regardless of building height or location.

To learn more about the Seattle Basin Effect and interpret how IBC’s new code may impact your project, seek technical consultation with an experienced firm such as DCI Engineers since the answer is always project specific.

About the author

Rose Bechtold

Rose Bechtold, Communications Specialist | Rose comes from a journalism and technical writing background. She is in her element while in research mode and naturally immerses herself in expert knowledge by interviewing staff members about new subjects. In her spare time, Rose practices plein-air sketching of buildings and random scenes around town.

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The Future of Bellevue, Washington Part 1: Becoming a More Livable, Memorable City