Collaboration in Civic Spheres

South Kirkland Transit-Oriented Mixed-Use Project Advancing; But Fate Still Uncertain

by Andrew Hart January 18th, 2011

SUMMARY: The cities of Kirkland and Bellevue have approved an agreement outlining principles to guide the development of the South Kirkland Park and Ride into a regional transit, commercial and housing hub intended to boost transit usage and model the benefits of transit-oriented development. Following upcoming public hearings and final amendments to the development plan, a $6.25 million federal grant could be released and would help cover some of the costs of adding 250 new parking spaces to the current 600 spaces which are at capacity now. 200 housing multifamily housing units are also planned, and 12,500 square feet of commercial space. If private and perhaps non-profit investors can partner on the housing, then the expanded parking component of the development plan can be fully funded; otherwise, not. Demand for commuter parking at the transit hub is likely to increase as tolling begins this spring on the nearby State Route 520 bridge, and then reconstruction of the bridge follows.

BACKGROUND: The South Kirkland Park and Ride sits on seven acres at 108th Avenue Northeast and NE 38th Street in southernmost Kirkland, bordering Bellevue. Owned by King County, which operates the regional transit agency Metro, the site is considered an ideal location for transit oriented development (TOD). It is already a transit hub providing service to the Totem Lake Urban Center, the University of Washington and downtown Seattle, as well as employment centers and residential areas in all directions. It’s adjacent to a planned north-south pedestrian and bicycle corridor. Also accenting the the benefits of transit-oriented development at the site, demand for commuter parking there is expected to increase with tolling beginning in Spring, 2011 on the State Route 520 bridge which connects Seattle and Eastside cities across Lake Washington, and during the coming multi-year construction project to replace the failing bridge. If steps allowing the project to move forward are taken before early 2011, King County may be able to claim $6.25 million in funding from the US Department of Transportation, covering some but not all of the added parking, and some other project costs.

KEY DOCUMENT: South Kirkland Park and Ride Principles of Agreement, City Of Kirkland, approved 11/16/10

KEY FINDINGS:

The agreement emphasizes the following principles in further developing the existing facility.

  • Expand park and ride capacity. Add 250 more parking spaces to the current 603 parking stalls, to better serve Bellevue and Kirkland residents and encourage higher transit ridership. Promote shared-use parking between residents and Park and Ride users. Improve transit facility and provide charging stations for electric vehicles as funding becomes available.
  • Provide local services. Incorporate ground floor commercial space into the housing project design to provide opportunities for businesses that support transit riders, residents and surrounding activities. There would be 12,500 square feet of commercial space.
  • Timing. Proceed with the project in a timeframe that protects the existing federal funding available for the park and ride expansion.
  • Feasibility. Facilitate a financially feasible project. (This would entail partnerships to fund the housing component, especially).
  • Coordination. Coordinate among Bellevue, Kirkland, and King County Metro Transit to streamline permit reviews and inspections as much as possible and in keeping with the goals of the project.
  • Attractive and compatible site development. Incorporate high-quality design standards. Develop an attractive site and building complex compatible with surroundings, and providing a welcoming gateway to both Bellevue and Kirkland. Wherever possible, preserve landscaped buffers and use green building techniques. Provide a safe and secure facility.
  • Range of housing affordability. The Kirkland City Council aspires to address the City’s affordable housing needs by the creation of 200 multifamily units, up to half of which are to be affordable to low or moderate income households.
  • Impact mitigation. Minimize and mitigate traffic and other impacts of the development. Encourage alternative modes of transportation, including transit, bicycling and walking.
  • Construction impacts. Minimize construction impacts on park and ride users and the surrounding area, including providing replacement park and ride spaces during construction. Coordinate project construction with SR520 construction, to minimize impacts to traffic and surrounding neighborhoods.

PROJECT APPROVAL PROCESS CONTINUES: On November 16, 2010, Kirkland City Council approved the Principles of Agreement for the South Kirkland Park and Ride by a margin of 5-2. The Principles of Agreement were then sent before the Bellevue City Council who also gave their approval on January 3, 2011. According to City of Kirkland Senior Planner Ms. Dorian Collins, a review of zoning restrictions will be conducted for the site. Two public information workshops will be held to involve citizens in the process. The workshops are to be held January 20, 2011, 7 p.m. at Northwest University, and on January 25, 2011, 7 p.m. at Kirkland City Hall. Additional information can be found the City of Kirkland website.

After code amendments are drafted and presented to a planning commission and the Houghton Community Council, there will be a public hearing on March 24, 2011. Amendments are expected to be adopted by June 2011.

FEDERAL GRANT : Regarding the sought-after $6.25 million federal grant, an online project fact sheet from the City of Kirkland stated that the federal grant agreement “calls for” the added parking to be built before tolling of the nearby State Route 520 bridge begins in Spring of 2011. But at the same time, the Kirkland document also states that completion of the planned additional parking spaces will require costs to be shared with the parties to an as-yet unfinalized business partnership to construct the housing units. Sources clarify that the term “calls for” is not to be understood as “requires that,” but also that it is unclear whether the federal grant – considered vital to the development – will ultimately be secured. If a request for proposals (RFP) for the housing component can go out this spring, that could increase the possibility of the grant being secured.

With reporting assistance from Matt Rosenberg.

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