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Group Health Representatives Lay Out Plan for Redevelopment of 28-Acre Site

Vision includes 10 to 12 new apartment buildings and a 180-room hotel.

If Group Health has its way, a 28-acre parcel it owns in the Overlake area will someday be the site of a mixed-use development featuring 10 to 12 apartment buildings and 1.4-million square feet of commercial space.

Representatives from the non-profit health care system presented their vision for redevelopment of the property on Tuesday during a public hearing at a Redmond City Council meeting. The council could take action on a proposed 20-year development agreement as soon as Dec. 6.

The vacant property, located at 2464 152nd Ave. NE in Overlake Village, is the site of a hospital that closed in 2008. The parcel is bordered by the campus and would be adjacent to a proposed East Link light rail station.

During their presentation on Tuesday, Group Health representatives highlighted the project's mix of residential, commercial office and retail space. Their plans include 1,400 new residential units, 1.18 million square feet of commercial office space, at least 25,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, and an 180,000-square-foot 180-room hotel.

Plans also call for a 2.67-acre park and a central pedestrian walkway running from the Microsoft campus to the light rail station.

Mike Hubbard of Capstone Partners, a real estate development firm overseeing the project, told council members the project would fit in well with the city's vision of an urban, high-density neighborhood where people can live, work and shop.

"If somebody really wanted to live and work here—and eat here—it can all work," Hubbard said. "This will happen eventually over time."

City staff also addressed a concern that was raised by Council President Richard Cole regarding Sound Transit's plans to bring light rail to the area by 2023. Dennis Lisk, an associate planner with the city, said the project plans do not rely on light rail coming to the area and transportation impact studies were conducted without assuming that transit option will be there.

Plans also call for the removal of most of the trees that exist on the site with a total of approximately 1,050 significant trees coming down. Mark Brumbaugh, the landscape architect overseeing the project, said the removal is unfortunate but necessary because of the existing asphalt that would be torn up and the nature of the existing tree root system.

Taking the pavement out would damage tree roots that have become embedded in the asphalt, Brumbaugh said, while removal of existing buildings and so-called buffer trees would make most remaining trees likely to fall over.

"You remove those buildings, you're going to change the wind patterns of the site," he said. "So almost regardless of what type of development was going to occur here in the future, you've got significant impacts just due to existing conditions."

Tree mitigation plans call for the planting of 3,345 trees at to-be-determined, off-site locations.

Redmond resident Mary Wirtha said she is concerned the project will take away too many trees and add too much concrete to the site. Wirtha, who lives in the nearby Viewpoint neighborhood, said she would like more of the parcel to be left as open green space.

"I propose that at least 40 percent of the area be left as green or park area," she said.

Public comment will continue to be accepted on the proposal through Dec. 6, when the public hearing will be continued at a regular city council meeting.

Joe October 20, 2011 at 03:45 PM
I agree that a sizeable portion should be left as a park. In the future, the rare and valued thing will be green space, not buildings and asphalt. That is, people in the future won't thank us for erecting lots of buildings. They will thank us for the things we refused to destroy. So, it is logical to plan for the future by preserving what cannot be replaced: natural elements and open space.
Joe October 26, 2011 at 10:47 PM
The artist's visualization confuses me. The best I can guess is that the dark grey bridge over the freeway in the upper right is 148th Ave NE and that the beautiful round green park adjacent is actually the scrub area inside the off-ramp with the future lightrail suspended overhead. So, the road running diagonally from upper left to lower right would have to be 152nd Ave NE. If true, then the vision for the Overlake area apparently entails the following: most, if not all, buildings in the area (Safeway, Koll Business Park, etc) would be torn down and replaced with multi-story buildings. The Group Health site would therefore have to be the portion in the lower left. What is encouraging is that the Group Health site is rendered as much more forested than 2+ acres as described in the article. From my estimate in looking at the drawing it appears to be as high as 40% or so (but the drawing does not extend to 156th Ave NE so it is difficult to say).
Steve Hitch October 27, 2011 at 12:28 PM
Joe, you have it right, in your interpretation of the picture. This future visualization shows a couple of things that demonstrate it is truly FUTURE. 1) It shows all the buildings in the neighborhood have been replaced with new ones. This makes sense. The existing buildings are all one and two story, while the entire area was zoned 5 years ago to multi-story structures, more like the urban center that the Mayor keeps talking about. 2) There are also trees everywhere in the neighborhood. The new street guidelines adopted last year show lots of green, but that of course takes time. Those look like mature trees to me, which may take decades to fill in. I think the visualization is something we may see when babies being born today are in college, assuming the economy turns around and development starts to happen.

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