On June 28th, 2017, the City of Bellevue will celebrate the grand opening of the new Bellevue Downtown Park, which is situated between Bellevue Square and Old Bellevue. Construction has been on-going to complete the 30-year vision for the 20-acre park since 1983. Bellevue Downtown Park has been compared to New York City’s Central Park and even old-world parks in Europe because of its unique design and amenities. The park features a circular promenade bordered by trees that defines 10 acres of open space, a canal with a waterfall and a reflection pool, which all add to the goal of making Bellevue Downtown Park a “respite from the activities of busy, urban life,” as stated by the City of Bellevue.
Prior to developing a design for the site, HR2 Research/Analytics, a leading researcher in Bellevue since 1978, was commissioned by the City of Bellevue to ask Bellevue-based households and citizens about what they envisioned in a downtown park. The research found the following among businesses and residents of Bellevue:
1. There was strong community demand for the need for the park and its location.
2. Unlike other major parks, citizens wanted the Bellevue Downtown Park to be designed for passive use for exercise, reflection, meditation and a retreat from the urban lifestyles which were normal for the Bellevue Business District.
3. The park would be a valuable asset for the development of residential, office, entertainment and retail space.
4. The limitation of parking was based not on opposition to an additional parking lot, but on the desire for passive walkability to access the park for visitors.
By 1990, the two initial phases of the construction were completed, with additions since that time that included parking and the construction of a restroom and a play area. The final construction for 2017 includes relocation of a parking lot, the completion of the circular promenade and the addition of a new play area suitable for those with disabilities.
Funding for the initial park development was established on a pay-as-you-go basis, with heavy reliance on donations from the community and local fund-raising efforts. Because of this funding structure, the development was divided into phases. HR2 Research/Analytics was honored to be one of the major original private donors behind the funding for Bellevue Downtown Park, as well as being the researchers involved in the park development and expansion.
Not everyone is excited about the additions being made to the park. Nearby merchants have expressed concerns about reduced parking that will impact an already difficult parking arrangement. The construction of four new residential buildings in the area with a total of 1,051 units has already contributed to the struggle for parking. Even with the park incomplete, local restaurant managers are resorting to valet parking for their restaurant diners.
Much has changed in Bellevue since the 1980s. The team at HR2 has monitored downtown Bellevue and the park’s development since that time up to today and they are certainly looking forward to seeing the original vision for the park fulfilled. As Bellevue quickly shows signs of becoming a leading technology and business center throughout the nation, it is appropriate that there will be a grand downtown park to reflect the success of the city.
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