Redmond city officials met this week to discuss a proposal by Seritage Growth Properties that would transform roughly 14 acres in the Overlake neighborhood into a mixed-use development.
The Seritage development is located on a plot of land at 2200 148th Ave. NE commonly known as the Sears site, which currently houses a Sears Auto Parts store scheduled to shut down on July 15 of this year. The first phase of development would see the construction of a residential complex that would hold 500 apartments, ground floor retail space and a smaller retail building along Northeast 20th Street. Future phases would include the addition of both a nine-story building that would house a 210-room hotel and offices, as well as two additional office buildings with retail.
If the project is completed it would accommodate more than 100,000 square feet of retail space, 23,000 square feet of market and food retail, 267,000 square feet of office space, two acres of park and 2,250 underground parking spaces for a total of 1.05 million square feet. At previous public meetings on the project, residents from Redmond and Bellevue expressed concerns about whether the Overlake neighborhood can handle an increase in population and traffic stemming from the project.
Redmond senior planner Dave Lee gave a presentation to the council at a study session on April 24 during which he outlined a city growth plan, drafted in 1999 and updated in 2007, which guides development in the Overlake neighborhood. The city is operating under a 2007 supplemental environmental impact study that projected growth through 2030. When the plan was last updated, it projected the neighborhood could accommodate a total of 4.5 million square feet of additional commercial space and up to 5,494 housing units before the plan would need a comprehensive update.
If the Seritage development is built out to completion there would still be room for 3.6 million square feet of commercial space and more than 2,000 housing units, Lee said. The anticipated population for the neighborhood is expected to be around 10,550 by 2030 according to city projections.
As part of the city’s analysis of the project, staff identified 17 intersections that would likely be impacted, Lee said. Despite an increase in residents, the analysis expected many of these intersections would be more congested if Seritage is not completed as the developer has opted to undertake public infrastructure improvements in exchange for an increase in building heights. These include building three new roads through the project, widening streets, building bike lanes and making intersection improvement.
As a result of the infrastructure improvements, the building housing the hotel and one of the office buildings could reach nine stories, while the residential building would only reach six stories. The residential building will have ground-floor commercial and restaurant spaces available.
Affordability for both housing units and commercial space was a concern raised by residents and council members. Redmond requires that developers reserve at least 10 percent of new units to be designated as affordable units, according to federal requirements. To be considered affordable, a unit’s monthly cost, including rent and utilities, must be at or below one-third of the monthly income for a family making 80 percent of King County’s median income. According to the city of Seattle’s calculations, a family of four making around $72,000 annually would meet this criteria.
Redmond council members Hank Myers and Tanika Padhye voiced concerns over affordable commercial space, which was echoed by other members of the council. Padhye was worried that higher commercial rents would drive up prices at grocery and retail stores in the development, forcing neighborhood residents to drive to other parts of the city to shop. Council member Hank Margeson urged the council to take a proactive role in looking for ways to keep commercial rents low.
“Let’s let Redmond be a leader,” Margeson said.
The next step for the city will be a public hearing between the council, residents and Seritage Group Properties. The project will additionally need to undergo an environmental review and be approved or denied by council.