By Aremi MacDonald
UW News Lab
The city council’s plans for Redmond’s urban development means more housing for its southeast neighborhood, but fewer locations for local businesses.
“This is the last affordable real estate in the area,” said Scott Manchester, owner of Elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a local martial arts gym in the area. “Services like ours just won’t be able to operate anymore.”
The city council outlined its redevelopment plans for the land neighboring Marymoor Park in southeast Redmond and approved zoning changes last year. According to those documents, most of the current land usage will be transformed into multi-family residential neighborhoods.
The southeast neighborhood only has one apartment complex currently under construction while the rest remains occupied by manufacturing and small commercial businesses.
Redevelopment in this area is part of the city’s comprehensive plan for urbanization and to accommodate the arrival of the Sound Transit East Link Light Rail by 2024.
“The city’s goal is to make as many residential areas as they can, but we told them that would be a bad idea,” said Scott Evans, vice president of Evans Business Park in Redmond’s southeast neighborhood. Redevelopment and zoning changes over time is a good thing for property value, however, he doesn’t want existing businesses forced out and wants to see more retail in the neighborhood instead, he said.
Evans Business Park, located on Northeast 65th Street, was designated for commercial and manufacturing businesses prior to the zoning changes in 2017.
It is a commercially diverse area where many locally owned businesses, including the martial-arts gym, a brewing company, a screen-printing shop, furniture warehouse and others, are currently located. The city’s new zoning would redevelop the area into a retail, commercial and multi-family based destination.
In 2016, the city hired Heartland, a real-estate consulting firm, to assess the value of the existing land to determine economic viability for redevelopment. Evans Business Park was evaluated in that assessment.
The assessment proposed redeveloping the business park into 69 townhomes, 578 apartments and 921 parking spaces. According to the findings, redevelopment would only be viable with zoning changes that encourage multi-family residential usage.
Despite the city’s plans for redeveloping Redmond’s southeast neighborhood, including Evans Business Park, the property owners have not received any formal proposals to redevelop the park or offers from the city to purchase the property.
“No proposal has been approved, but we are leaving our options open for redevelopment,” Evans said.
The landlords of the buildings in the business park are separate entities from The Evans Company, which manages the land.
“The landlords have been giving out one-year leases at a time. We don’t like long-term leases,” Evans said. “Over time it might get redeveloped into residential.”
Over the next six months, the city will review proposed amendments to Redmond’s zoning code, with plans to make additional changes by mid-2019.
“This rezoning allows businesses to stay, grow, expand and redevelop while allowing for housing and additional business and employment opportunities,” said Erika Vandenbrande, planning and community development director for the city of Redmond.
However, business owners in the southeast neighborhood have growing concerns about the longevity of their business in Redmond.
Elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu martial arts gym has been in its Redmond location for seven years. Manchester said his company serves more than 300 customers, 60 percent of which are children. He is concerned his business won’t be able to afford the area and would be priced out if the city puts in upscale storefronts and dual-use commercial and residential buildings, he said.
“I’ve been looking to open up another gym and haven’t found anywhere else that’s affordable,” said Manchester.
Although more changes in zoning code won’t officially be confirmed until next year, it is clear the city plans to enforce strict limitations on commercial and manufacturing businesses in southeast Redmond.
According to city documents, retail warehouses and truck and freight transportation will be heavily restricted and not permitted in some areas depending on the district under the city’s new zoning code, two dominant uses for many businesses currently in this neighborhood.
“The city recognizes this as a long-term, future vision without any connection to a specific timeline,” said Maher. However, according to city documents, the city’s comprehensive plan for redevelopment outlines a completion date of 2030, while the Sound Transit East Link Light Rail station in the area is expected to be completed by 2024 so some redevelopment in Redmond’s southeast neighborhood will need to be completed by then.
The city recently hosted an event at which members of the community were invited to take a survey and provide feedback on the city’s new design plans. The city’s planning commission will continue to draft design concepts and proposals for the next six months. Until then, the public is invited to attend more informational sessions this month and next. Times and dates will be listed on the city website.
Aremi MacDonald is a journalism student in the University of Washington News Lab.