Sound Transit Board approves transaction terms for $500+ million transit-oriented development in Bellevue

[Link to original press release]

November 18, 2021, Bellevue, WA–The Sound Transit Board of Directors today approved key transaction terms with developers to build almost seven acres of transit-oriented development (TOD) adjacent to the recently completed Operations and Maintenance Facility: East. BRIDGE Housing and its partners were selected last year to develop the project, valued at more than $500 million.

Sound Transit and the City of Bellevue worked together for many years on a creative plan to integrate the OMF East into the city’s plans for the rapidly developing Bel-Red corridor. Their collaborative vision for the site, located across from the Spring District/120th Link light rail station that will open in 2023, features a vibrant mix of uses including affordable and market-rate housing, offices, retail and public space.

“Together, through creative engineering and partnerships, this area will now have not only a maintenance base, but also affordable housing, office, retail and a park, all within a short walk to the Bel-Red light rail station,” Sound Transit Boardmember and King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci said. “Sound Transit and the City of Bellevue are working together to meet the needs of eastside transit riders, residents and employees and I’m excited to see this transit-oriented development project contribute to the kind of welcoming neighborhood we have always planned for the Bel-Red area around our new light rail service.”

“The Spring District/120th Station area is transforming into a transit-oriented community with thousands of new homes and jobs including some 280 units of desperately needed affordable housing,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “The economic development that is accompanying our Eastlink rail expansion must benefit everyone and we are thrilled that this project will deliver affordable housing alongside market rate housing, office and retail spaces surrounding our new maintenance facility and rail station, allowing residents quick access to opportunities on a light rail network stretching from Redmond to Seattle to Lynnwood and Federal Way by 2024.”

“From the beginning, the promise of light rail has been an opportunity for Bellevue to think big and create a new urban neighborhood,” said Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson. “This important step represents the culmination of many years of hard work by the City of Bellevue and Sound Transit to create hundreds of new, affordable homes for Eastside families within walking distance of public transit and other quality-of-life amenities. I look forward to carrying forward this spirit of public-private collaboration across the entire Bel-Red corridor.”

BRIDGE Housing will serve as the qualified entity, lead developer and affordable housing developer. BRIDGE has participated in the development of more than 18,000 homes on the West Coast.

“Sound Transit’s Spring District site is an unparalleled opportunity for BRIDGE to bring much-needed affordable housing to the Bellevue community as part of a vibrant, mixed-use collaboration with Essex Property Trust and Touchstone/Urban Renaissance,” said Ken Lombard, President & CEO of BRIDGE Housing.

Touchstone, a URG Company, will develop the commercial office component. They are based in Seattle and have worked in the region for more than 35 years.

Essex Property Trust will develop the market-rate housing and is a fully integrated real estate investment trust that acquires, develops, redevelops, and manages multifamily residential properties in selected west coast markets.

The project is planned to include:

  • Approximately 500 units of housing, of which around 280 are affordable units serving a range of incomes between 30% and 80% of area median income
  • More than 400,000 square feet of office space
  • Active ground floor uses including retail and resident amenities
  • A public park
  • The master-planned, multi-phase TOD is expected to be built out over the next decade, following recent residential and office growth in the adjacent Spring District.

The development team is pursuing a creative financing strategy for affordable housing that utilizes the recently announced Amazon Housing Equity Fund, which committed $100 million to support affordable housing on Sound Transit property.

The Amazon Housing Equity Fund is a more than $2 billion commitment to preserve and create more than 20,000 affordable housing units in Washington state’s Puget Sound region; Arlington, Virginia; and Nashville, Tennessee—three hometown communities where the company has a large and growing presence. The Amazon Housing Equity Fund increases housing options for moderate-to-low-income families by providing affordable housing providers with quick access to low-rate loans to create or preserve buildings where affordability would have otherwise been lost to commercial-rate development. The fund will also provide cash grants to businesses, nonprofits, and minority-led organizations to help them build a more inclusive solution to the affordable housing crisis, which disproportionately affects communities of color.

“When we launched the Amazon Housing Equity Fund earlier this year, we put a stake in the ground to address the imminent need for equitable affordable housing development through innovative solutions and speed. Sound Transit is already helping us deliver on both,” said Catherine Buell, director of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund. “We are proud to support smart transit-oriented development that helps to bring families closer to more opportunities, services, and a better quality of life.”

The City of Bellevue and Sound Transit each contributed approximately an acre of land at no cost, valued at around $12 million to support the development of affordable housing.

Once all office and market-rate housing projects have completed their construction and lease-up period, Sound Transit can expect a minimum of $1.36 million in annual ground rent. This amount increases over time with CPI adjustments and land value readjustments. Sound Transit will also receive 1% of gross sales proceeds as profit participation upon the first sale of an office or market-rate housing building.

Information about Sound Transit’s TOD program is at https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/creating-vibrant-stations/transit-oriented-development.

About BRIDGE Housing: As a mission-driven nonprofit, BRIDGE’s goal is to strengthen communities and improve people’s lives, beginning—but not ending—with affordable housing. Since it was founded in 1983, BRIDGE has participated in the development of more than 18,000 homes in California, Oregon and Washington. For more information, visit www.bridgehousing.com.

About Touchstone: Touchstone is a subsidiary of Urban Renaissance Group LLC, a Seattle-based full-service commercial real estate company, engaged in acquisitions, development, asset management, leasing, property management and ownership in Seattle, Bellevue, Denver and Portland. Urban Renaissance Group’s (URG) mission is to create places that inspire and connect. With a dedication to placemaking and fostering community, URG helps spark change in transforming neighborhoods by reinventing land and buildings to better serve people and the community at large. Learn more at www.urbanrengroup.com and www.touchstonenw.com.