Visualization of Overlake redevelopment, image from City of Redmond

On Tuesday, the Redmond City Council approved the Master Plan for redevelopment in the Overlake Village area*. As we’ve reported in the past, the project is transit-oriented in nature, to be served by the B Line and a future Link station along 520.  The planning includes several major revisions to the existing street network, including subdividing the suburban superblock parcels and building a ped-bike connection to employment areas north of the freeway.

The Seattle Times has the primer on the vision for the area:

The City Council approved a development agreement Tuesday that allows a hotel and conference center, 1,400 apartments or condos and 1.2 million square feet of offices and stores on the site of Group Health’s former Eastside hospital.

Located adjacent to Microsoft’s main campus and a planned Sound Transit light-rail station, the project — even if built by more than one developer — will be “an iconic development for Overlake that will set the pace and style” for other high-density projects in the area, Redmond Planning and Community Development Director Rob Odle said Wednesday.

Consider this Redmond’s own version of the Bel-Red plan with a similar set of rules– upzoning could raise height limits to 120 feet and developers would be incentivized to build higher if they offer ‘public amenities’ like park space. The City is also pursuing other low-impact development opportunities in the area, including rain gardens and stormwater vaults.  When compete, redevelopment would complete a TOD corridor between Bellevue and Redmond, linking the Hospital District, Bel-Red, and Overlake together.

The City of Redmond is never shy about putting up really high-quality comprehensive planning documents on their website, so I’d be remiss in not linking to a few of them: the Master Plan itself (PDF) and a 167-page street design manual (PDF) just for Overlake Village.

*This particular project concerns only redevelopment on the Group Health site.  The Overlake Village subarea can accommodate a much higher level of development capacity.

68 Replies to “Redmond Approves Overlake Redevelopment”

    1. Too bad Kemper Freeman is going to reap most of the profits. It’s as if he just doesn’t get how much light rail helps out his business model . . ..

    1. It’s not a matter of any place being more progressive. It’s that the Overlake area doesn’t have a neighborhood identity or organization.

      1. C’mon now. Roosevelt surpassed every density goal the city tossed their way. It’s Seattle’s density goals that are ridiculously low. I bet the areas around the stations are still slated to be less dense than any First Nations villages that existed before the arrival of the European-American settlers.

        Here’s the catch: If the developers know there is a popular uprising coming for taller height limits, they may hold off on all TOD around the stations, and get villainized, the way Mr. Sesseli was, for not keeping residents in the single-family homes they are planning to demolish.

      2. Brent,
        Mr. Sisley wasn’t villainized, he’s been a very bad actor and slumlord for decades. The reason so many of Mr. Sisley’s properties are vacant (or have been demolished) is because he refused to do any of the bare minimum to bring them up to code.

        Mind you I don’t think the upzones should be passed on due to a hatred of Mr. Sisley, but the neighborhood will be happy when he and his properties are gone.

      3. Was the purpose of bringing the properties up to code so that they could be occupied (even while they are slated to be replaced by taller buildings) or for the health and safety of the neighbors?

      4. Overlake is a good place for a Link station and a smart place to redevelop. ST runs into trouble when station location is determined by social justic or where ventilation shafts need to be.

  1. The only real concerns I had when I saw the original presentation a couple of months ago was that this plan was still very car centric in terms of parking spaces and streets. Also, the plan calls for the removal of the long standing trees on the GHC property and the new development is far less “woodsy”. And lastly, 1400 residential units is not enough to create a real community (e.g. to support viable local commerce/retail). I’d like to see 5000 units so maybe changing the ratio of commercial/office space to residential.

    1. The housing unit figure is only on the Group Health property and doesn’t include any other housing units in the station area.

      As for woodsy feel I would much rather this development over actual woods somewhere else on the urban fringe being destroyed for sprawling business parks.

      The street design is very in line with new urbanist design philosophy, tightly gridded, street parking, street activity. Remember areas with dense grid networks doesn’t mean they are car centric (see downtown portland’s small grid), in fact in many ways its exactly the opposite because a fine grid slows traffic due to the high number of intersections and makes walking more direct and interesting due to the finer grain of buildings/streets/etc.

      1. Adam is correct int that this GHC masterplan only extends to the 28 acres for the plan proposal. Overlake subarea is considerably larger than that and has capacity closer to what you’re asking for, Charles. Also, keep in mind this means over 4,000 residents.

        On a side note, the city allows for exceptions to the on-site tree preservation % for masterplans of this type. GHC has agreed to replant many more trees than that will be coming down. The bulk of these will be replanted on city-owned Native Growth Protection Areas and over 300 new landscaping and street trees will be located on-site. Will it be development dropped down in a forested woodland? No, but I’m not sure most would have anticipated that for this level of density. Would you ask the same for places like Capitol Hill? We’d never have a dense, new urbanist centre. I would certainly agree with Adam’s comment about this development going elsewhere where we don’t want it. Would it be better to force development to leap outside of UGBs or more single-family neighbourhoods to pop up and destroy woodsy habitat?

        I’d take comfort in knowing that not only is less than 1 tree per new unit will be lost on-site, but that the total replacement is higher than the existing total of trees to removed on-site. I don’t think we can say the same about development in Seattle proper or *any* single-family residential development throughout the Puget Sound.

      2. I guess I’m being a bit more radical in that I want new planned urban developments to consider de-emphasizing streets as a standard feature. The GHC property is compact enough that you could have pedestrian paths between buildings and entrances that face that. Streets would be alleys or on the periphery of the project. As I recall, there is still approximately 1 car stall per residential unit in addition to significant parking for the commercial space. What if that were cut down to 1 stall per 3 residential units? What if priority for those stalls were given to car sharing services?

        If you want to fully recognize the future without a car, then you have to start now by calling into question continuing planning design where the personal automobile is accommodated as the normal, standard mode of transportation. The Overlake region is blessed already with excellent transit connections and will be enhanced with the arrival of Link. Getting to downtown Redmond, Crossroads, downtown Bellevue, and downtown Seattle is super easy from Overlake.

        What I saw in the GHC plan was something similar to Redmond Town Center which in my last visits showed signs of failing with significant commercial vacancies and minimal residential population made worse by almost non-existant direct transit connections. Developers don’t seem to think they can successfully develop a property without the car.

    2. I agree, Charles, the loss of those impressive trees is a concern to me, as well. I am not arguing against the development, but that was my clinic/hospital since 1975, and it always felt like I was going to a park, not a doctor visit. Any way you cut it, removing trees of that size, in that number, is a concern.

      1. While we can’t call the trees currently standing on the GHC property “old growth” they are certainly mature trees and I would hope that what ever is replanted has the opportunity to grow to similar characteristics of tall, dense trees. That has been one of the defining qualitative characteristics of both Bellevue and Redmond is the preservation and careful blending of development with these natural habitats.

      2. They’re definitely not old growth. We have photos of the site when it was logged in the mid 20th century. But hopefully what does grow will be allowed to mature fully. And the city has had a fairly stong tree preservation code that requires replacement when trees are removed. On the plus side, since this is a phased project, trees will only be removed as the phase is implemented, so that should allow replanted on-site trees to be in various stages of growth. And, as I pointed out, the developer is replacing a lot–3 new trees to every 1 removed. The city is fairly committed to trees–it better since its own logo has a huge evergreen tree!

      3. Like I said, I am not arguing against this TOD. I realize the importance of transit and the associated TOD.

        Of course those trees are not old growth. But, they are mature, and were mature in 1975. I challenge any reader of this blog to take a look at them and say they have no concerns that they will be biting the dust.

      4. Rod, I have no concerns. These trees are in a parking lot – they don’t serve the ecological purpose that trees in forest do.

        And if we don’t build here, where we have a transit system going in, the same demand will just build farther out – cutting down trees in currently unbuilt areas…

      5. The firm hired to prepare the master plan looked at trying to save the trees. In the end it’s just not possible. The parking at Group Health is an intestine like maze with lots and lots of driveway and single rows of parking separated by trees. Douglas Fir are shallow rooted meaning that large portions of their roots are under asphalt and would likely die when the parking is removed. They’re also trimmed at the bottom leaving them as top heavy sails when any of the supporting trees are removed making it a virtual certainty that some will coming crashing down in a storm.

        I believe the plan is to remove trees as development occurs and not to clear cut at the time of demolition of the existing structure. Until a launch tenant is found I don’t think anything will happen. It still seems to me that in the interim some re-purpose of the existing building could be found.

    1. How so? Overlake is designated an URBAN CENTER whilst Roosevelt is designated an RESIDENTIAL URBAN VILLAGE. The function between the two are vastly different unless you’re proposing that there is a change to the Comprehensive Plan Land Use designation in Roosiehood.

      Roosevelt is not a Puget Sound Growth Center (i.e. URBAN CENTER) at this point and Vision 2040 by the Puget Sound Regional Council just came out last year. For all the whining I hear, I fail to understand the incessant screaming when people are unwilling to do the necessary work first to make the changes.

      If you want a change, here’s the process it needs to go through:

      New neighbourhood study with initial planning recommendations –> Comp. Plan review and change in concert with PSRC –> Do a masterplan (screw obsolete zoning) –> get final buyoff from residents and council. Also, cooperation with the ‘hood is necessary at ALL points.

      1. Man does that seem like a terrible process. Let’s imagine that we want to bring density to light rail station areas. Now let’s break down the steps:

        1. New neighborhood study, for each station. Paid for by who? Would we need a ballot item to fund this, or just somehow wrestle funds from other city departments?
        2. Comp. Plan review and change in concert with PSRC. The comp plan was recently finished, right? How often do these things come out? Will we have to wait a decade for this?
        3. Do a master plan, for each station. Who pays for this? See #1.
        4. Get final buyoff. At the end of this process is a wall of NIMBYs with financial incentive to not be upzoned (property values stay high, free street parking is plentiful). If we’re lucky and do things right, there might be enough residents that care more about their city than their home prices, but that’s a big if.

      2. And that’s why it’s embarassing for Seattle. We’ve suffocated ourselves with process, and nothing gets done.

      3. Should use DPD resources in existence. They have a whole long-range planning section for a reason. Get PW and DPD together, grab a liaison at PSRC. Do your studies. Not expensive, just an annual workprogram item. Doesn’t have to take a decade. More like a year to two years. That’s what Comp. Plan *Updates* are for. They only require council approval (after going through a full vetting process of course).

        But you’re right that NIMBYism could be problematic. But that’s the world we live in. I’d rather do all the work and have none it come to fruition if we did the process right. That is *part* of the process. It’s a democracy, not a technocratic, oligarchial, or totalitarian system. Except you’re asking for one of the latter three and that’s just not going to happen.

        Anyway, if you do a masterplan, people see what you’re actually planning which leads to less opposition. Rather than a few asipirations and a bunch of crap zoning regulations that work against you from all sides, masterplans say exactly what you want. You can change the details in the plan to suit needs. There’s certainty there and that’s what everyone is looking for, not pie in the sky or scary words or useless language that’s hard to decipher or visualise.

        Also, keep in mind that when I say masterplan, I’m not talking necessarily a GHC proposal, that’s a very defined plan almost to the point of dropping in a planning application for development. DPD wouldn’t need to go that far, but be more high level and delineate where more fined grained details need to come in later. Generally, I’m in favour of a hybrid fined grain masterplan and form-based coding. Define your wants and needs for your districts and general development of pracels so that they are compatible with your overall vision, then go deeper and come up with the exact parcel level strategies.

      4. FYI, that’s a universal planning processing in GMA cities. We are required to have a Comp. Plan (the primary planning policy document) and zoning/regulations must be compatible with that. You have to change the Comp. Plan policies FIRST before amending zoning when regulation/zoning changes would be in contravention of the policies established in the Comp. Plan. Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Otherwise, you would see plenty of jurisdictions make very questionable regulatory changes that aren’t backed up by policy.

      5. I appreciate that the process is there for a reason. But as an outsider it seems painfully bureaucratic. Just looking at that first step – the DPD is planning on updating 2 neighborhoods’ plans this year. Looking at my neighborhood (Queen Anne), our plan is dated June 1998*. Roosevelt’s plan is dated March 1999, and was based on work done in 1992. How long would it take for them to update all of the station neighborhoods’ plans?

        * “The Queen Anne plan reflects the community’s long-standing opposition to the tentative Upper Queen Anne Residential Urban Village designation…” Ugh. Worse NIMBYs than Roosevelt. Don’t bother adding a station here, Seattle Subway.

      6. I once heard DPD had 100 planners (maybe not now due to the economic situation), but if anywhere near that, surely they can get a couple of planners to do the work. It’s not like they’re issuing/reviewing many permits these days. Better than shooting darts at the wall or playing with pointless demographic datasets. They’d salivate at the opportunity to do the kind of work I mentioned anyway rather than self-desructive spot zoning. Or they could always ask me to volunteer to do the work. I’d be happy to help!

      7. The big issue is the lack of coordination between land use planning and transportation planning. Considering how big the investment we are making in this regional rail system and there are plenty of people around to remind us of that fact, we must ensure that these investments pay off by promoting urban density and reduced dependence on private automobile transportation.

        Why is a stop going in the Roosyhood when there is not maximum potential for increasing density built in to plans before a stop was committed? Things are happening backwards here. It is also the problem of sovereign agencies not working together.

      8. I would argue that subway stations should only be built in Urban Centers. Otherwise they’re a waste of money because the investment isn’t leveraged to the extent it could/should be. Subway stations are simply too expensive to construct if they only serve a limited number of riders.

      9. Stephen: I’m no planner, but yes, I would argue that stations should only be built in areas that are willing to accept the density that comes with it.

        Obviously, if we had money coming out of our ears, the situation would be different. But it pisses me off that we’re spending the money for a station at Roosevelt, when we could be using that money as a down-payment on serving Wallingford/Fremont/Ballard. FWIW, the Wallingford urban village has 2x the population of Roosevelt already. Even after the upzone, Wallingford’s still a bigger destination.

        Honestly, I’m starting to think that we should have gone west first. Imagine if we had built a station at I-5 and 45th, with a convenient transfer to freeway buses (incl. from the express lanes) Northgate would still have been relatively well-served — you’d take a fast freeway bus to a fast train. But the service improvement for people from Wallingford/Fremont/Ballard would be phenomenal.

      10. Actually, Matt, we shouldn’t have more urban centers. There’s plenty of infill and development capacity in existing centers.

      11. If you restrict stations only to Urban Centers then Seattle wouldn’t have ANY stations outside of Downtown, U-District, and Northgate.

        Some here already don’t like the fact that Link’s utility as transportation in the urban core has been compromised in order to provide service to outlying areas.

      12. Brett, the “residential urban village” station at Roosevelt will get more riders than the “Urban Center” station at Overlake.

      13. Initially Roosevelt will get more riders than the “Urban Center” station at Overlake. It will have had a several year head start and it’s already in a neighborhood that is oriented toward using transit. But I’m going to stick with my prediction that Roosevelt will come nowhere close to it’s projected ridership and by the time the Group Health master plan is built out this station will greatly exceed that of Roosevelt. Where is the all day draw in the Roosevelt neighborhood?

      14. Matt: You could change the worlds by showing up at the Queen Anne Community Council and the Queen Anne Transportation Committee and speaking up every time they try to pass an anti-transit, anti-pedestrian fatwah. Even just one bus rider showing up and questioning the automobile paradigm would get them to stop and think.

  2. Sherwin can you please clarify. From my understanding the increased development capacity approved is only on Group Health’s site, not the entire station area. The Group Health site is sizable, but there there is much more development potential in this area beyond just the 1,400 housing units and 1.2 million feet of office space.

    For example the area that the street design manual address is not included in the above numbers and I’m assuming has already been, or will be rezoning?

    1. Yes, you’re correct. The Seattle Times article was just for the Group Health site, which is one of five zones in the Overlake subarea. The street design manual is for all of Overlake Village.

  3. What this proves is actually nothing. Cities are all trying to re-invent themselves. This is the direction Puget Sound cities are taking. What we end up with in 30 years might be something worthwhile and it might turn out to be a big mistake.

    1. You really don’t seem to be capable of accepting things that don’t fit inside your preconceptions.

  4. And in slightly related news… Master Permit applications signs are surrounding the 36 acre Wright Runstad development near East and Bellevue Bases called The Spring District. I swear they went up the day after the council voted to approve the East link alignment but I suppose there may have been a day or two delay… I’ll grab a picture if anybody is interested…

    With all this TOD going on, I suspect the area’s developers will have their hands full before they can start hatching plans to bring development, density, and crackheads to the South Bellevue area.

  5. The one thing I see missing in this design is bus lanes. If we want RapidRide to be even remotely rapid it needs to have dedicated lanes, especially in an area that will be growing and getting more traffic. The RRB already gets really backed up on 152nd, I can’t imagine how much worse it will be with all these new traffic lights and buildings. Frankly, if they want to focus 152nd with retail and on street parking, then I think they should move RRB to 151st and give it dedicated bus lanes (maybe at the expense of on street parking). Then busses will move much more smoothly thorough this new development. W/o dedicated lanes it will make RR even more of a joke.

    1. Arguably though, by then Link will be in place for fast service. Do we need RRB to be so enhanced that it’s actually BRT when really we only need intermediary service to points between Link stations with frequent service, moderately fast bus service? RRB’s ridership is so-so (although it’s early) mainly because there aren’t many places generating demand for it. One major worksite and lots of low-density development in between while faster options with more direct service exist (566, 542, 545 just to name a few). Until Redmond’s city centre and the area between Overlake and Bellevue densifying, it’s not going to matter how many BAT/bus-only lanes you put in.

      1. Yes. RRB goes places Link doesn’t. Namely downtown Redmond and Crossroads. Believe it or not, RRB is not simply a downtown Bellevue to Overlake express.

      2. RR-B should never have diverted to 152nd St in the first place. Staying on 156th is good enough for the 245 – there’s no reason for the B bus to behave differently.

        Unfortunately, now that we’ve committed to making RR-B divert to 152nd St., I can’t see this deviation being removed because when and if this TOD happens, you will have a constituency of existing riders who would be (slightly) worse off it the deviation were removed.

      3. aw, RR-B should not divert to 152nd now. It adds a lot of travel time. Overlake Park and Ride could be accessed from the east.

      4. 10-4 on getting RR B off 152nd ASAP. The only reason it’s there is to serve the failed Overlake Village TOD experiment. Stay on 156th and cross 520 on the new 36th Street overpass. Consolidate the station with the relocated East Link location. Why worry about Overlake P&R? It’s a P&R (and not a very big one) not an all day destination. It’s much more important to serve 148th which feeds RR with office space on the Redmond side (east) and apartments on the Bellevue side (west). The get on 520 at NE 51st and exit as Westlake Sammamish to pick up Redmond Town Center, the old downtown and then Redmond TC/City Hall. Skip the part on 148th north of NE 51st because there’s nothing there; ditto the warehouse district northwest of downtown Redmond.

      5. One thing I don’t understand is that all the area in the TOD master plan is private property owned by a variety of owners, not just Group Health. Are they all in on this? Can eminent domain be used to take the land, build roads, and re-parcel out the pieces?

      6. Agreed the P&R isn’t a signficant anchor and the B-LINE stop should be moved further north. But bypassing the Overlake Station, and associated development and pedestrian improvemements seems short sighted.

    2. Eric: The masterplan only applies to the Group Health parcels, not the other properties in the Urban Center. Group Health was interested in drafting a comprehensive, special plan for their portion of that district.

  6. Hmmm, looking at that rendering shows the huge problem with putting rail along giant freeways: it means the rail stations will forever be constrained by (1) being on the edge of a giant highway, instantly cutting their pedestrian-accessible space in half, and (2) being on the edge of a giant highway, resulting in a highly unpleasant and noisy environment that will inevitably serve as a damper on pedestrian-friendly development.

    If you’re going to build a dense, walkable urban center around rail, the rail should be in the center—without the giant freeway.

      1. Hmm, the example Adam Parast gave (Bergshamra, Stockholm) of a “freeway bridging” station looks … quite awful. Despite the isolation from the freeway, and good amount of greenery, the environment around the station exits is obviously very very car-oriented, with a dearth of retail and no apparent street life.

        In a sense I’ll bet it is a good example, because that’s exactly what I can envision Redmond building…. :(

        [It feels exactly like a typical east-side suburban apartment complex, only with a train somehow wedged in.]

      2. I initially thought a ped/bike bridge would be an important part of this station. I no longer thing so. The new 36th overpass is one part of the puzzle. The rest should be a redo of the 148th overpass. This is currently where all the pedestrian demand is). This is going to have to happen anyway. Maybe it needs to be expanded to a full on lid project. It would benefit a lot more people than lidding 520 at Medina/Hunts Point.

    1. I foresee this section of freeway getting lidded, and the plaza moving over the lid.

      It’s a long time until Link reaches Overlake, and that neighborhood will have the money and clout to get a lid by the time the train arrives, I bet.

      1. Doubt it, not in the TMP at all and Parks has no $$. Not happening unless WSDOT or Microsoft wants to do it. Which is also very doubtful. I definitely would not expect that in the next 30 years at all.

      2. Right, not going to happen. Freeway lids happen in places like Mercedes Island and Medina. Really there’s nobody living nearby that would benefit from a lid over 520. A pedestrian bridge is more than adaquate. That said, given the pretty darn nice design of the 36th St. overpass a similar scheme for 148th (NB sidewalk is in Redmonds plans) would be ideal. I really don’t want to see the bike trail become the access for a ped bridge. Nothing against pedestrians; except that they are slow clueless and lame :=

  7. I am very familiar with this area and it took me a the better part of a minute to figure out what I was looking at in this rendering. Let’s just say it has a lot of artistic license. It seems to completely have left out the new 36th St. overpass which I think is slightly below the bottom of what’s shown. I don’t think it correctly shows the plan for the infamous 152nd St slip ramp. I’m not sure it even shows a workable 148th interchange. It’s got a huge complex where there’s currently an old Safeway (good luck with sighting something there). And across the street there’s a forest where there’s currently a gas station and old furniture warehouse store. It also seems to have saved the forest at the Group Health site. In fact there’s way more trees than cars. About the only thing that looks almost right is the new plan to go orbital over 148th and then dive into a trench.

      1. Interesting article. Speaks to my objection of engineers not learning actual drafting (just pencil, not expecting inked velum) and architects not being able to sketch.

        But this rendering doesn’t get down to the human scale. It seems just plain wrong at a macro scale. A dozen vehicles on 520 and two of them buses. Giant office space added and no roads. There are people under 20 that could have done better and they are the ones that have to live with it.

    1. My response to your comments after viewing:

      -The 36th St overpass would be a far below the perspective of this image. 152nd and it’s curve when it reaches 520 is a lot longer than one might think. Use the figure-8 shaped assisted living complex as a reference point in this google maps link:

      -The funny thing about the tall and dense vegetation on the rendering is that it exists in what is currently the figure-8 shaped retirement complex’s parking lot. The rest of the Group Health development appears presumably replanted.

      -There is a bit of forested area where the old furniture warehouse is (now an academy I believe), but the warehouse is indeed missing.

      Based on the artist’s rendering, it is pretty clear the main focus is the station and the immediate surroundings. I don’t think it was his/her intention to accurately draw everything portrayed in the rendering. You can really notice how little time the artist spent on drawing the peripheral regions of the picture compared to the central region.

  8. It would be ironic if the Eastside eventually achieves a 120′ corridor from Hospital station to Overlake Village. Then the East Link line would really be prescient, and the word “suburb” may not even apply to Bellevue and Redmond any more.

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