Plans to redesign significant portions of the Olde Towne area received a warm if wary reception from the Bellevue City Council Monday night.
Council members welcomed conceptual plans presented by Planning Director Chris Shewchuk that envision a modern downtown equipped with townhomes, single family homes, a pedestrianized shopping area, restaurants, a redesigned entry point at Lincoln Road and a new entry point at Haworth Park.
The proposal has already been approved by the Bellevue Planning Commission.
Concerns arose Monday that redevelopment should be voluntary, and not imposed on existing property owners.
“There is no intent for the city to use eminent domain to take properties or force somebody to redevelop their property,” Shewchuk said. “It will be a voluntary participation.”
The area targeted for redevelopment encompasses land north and south of Mission Avenue from 22nd Avenue in the north to 23rd Avenue in the south, and from Washington Street to the west and Franklin Street to the east.
Many of the properties on the north side of Mission Avenue are owned by the city, making that area more easily developable. Properties on the south side, however, are owned by several private landowners, some of who live out of town.
Those property owners would have to voluntarily upgrade their properties or sell to developers if the proposed plan were to be fully realized.
Councilman Steve Carmichael, whose Ward I includes the Olde Towne area, urged cooperation and not compulsion.
“From my perspective I certainly hope as a city and as private business owners we walk hand in hand down that aisle,” Carmichael said. “This is going to be a tremendously positive thing not only for Olde Towne Bellevue, but for Bellevue in general.”
He suggested that property owners on the south side might need help to achieve the vision.
Shewchuk said the south side would be more likely to develop once the north side begins to take shape.
“We would hope that as things develop on the north side people will also want to improve the south side.”
Councilman Paul Cook asked how the rules governing traffic on a redesigned Mission Avenue might impact heavy trucks traveling to the Bellevue Bridge.
The redevelopment is designed to be pedestrian friendly, Shewchuk said, but the necessity to accommodate traffic traveling to Iowa will be taken into account.
City Administrator Dan Berlowitz stressed that Shewchuk’s proposal is a vision, open for debate and reappraisal, especially involving the private sector.
“This is not set in granite, but gives us a vision with which to work,” he said.
He said council members will engage in more detailed discussion before requesting bids from developers and that public input will also be sought.
“I think that will allow for a broader conversation,” he said. “