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Rendering of Ondina with light rail car in front
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Building Thoughtful Residential Communities on the Eastside

In November 2021, Vulcan Real Estate (VRE) announced the start of construction on our first multifamily residential project in Bellevue, WA. The decision to expand our residential development portfolio to the Eastside (named for its location east of Seattle and Lake Washington), was guided by the area’s recent exponential growth.

With more than 5 million square feet of office space under construction (ninety percent of which is pre-leased to Amazon), Downtown Bellevue will see its inventory of commercial space increase by nearly 50 percent over the next two years. The influx of thousands of new employees will bring with it an increased demand for housing located near workplaces, and we are positioning ourselves to capture some of that growth.

Our first multifamily residential project in Bellevue

Incorporated in 1953, Bellevue (and the Eastside in general) for many decades was essentially a bedroom community for Seattle which housed the region’s major employers. However over the years, Bellevue began to grow into a business center in its own right—initially attracting traditional finance, insurance, and real estate companies and then early adopter technology companies like T-Mobile and Smartsheet. Bellevue has now emerged on the national stage in what feels like the blink of an eye. Decision makers at leading technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have taken notice of the Eastside’s strong fundamentals, plentiful amenities, and high quality of life, helping transform the area into a vibrant and expanding center for all kinds of businesses.

Bellevue is a vibrant and expanding metropolitan hub

Today, Bellevue is a metropolitan hub fueled by a strong corporate presence of established technology companies and startups alike, looking to leverage an unparalleled diverse and skilled talent pool.

Downtown Bellevue in 2021 with BelRed in the distance. Photo by Patrick Bennett.

Today Downtown Bellevue is home to more than 14,000 residents compared to just 2,400 two decades ago, a phenomenal and sustained growth rate of more than nine percent annually. To keep pace with the submarket’s growth trajectory, a number of infrastructure investments are being made. These include an expansion of Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail from Seattle to Redmond, with stops in Downtown Bellevue, Spring District, BelRed, and Overlake, as well as the Grand Connection, a 1.5-mile pedestrian pathway beginning at Lake Washington and winding its way through Downtown Bellevue, ultimately crossing I-405 where the iconic Wilburton Trestle is slated for restoration and transformation into an elevated bike and walking trail.

Our Expansion in Bellevue

Today, 50 percent of our pipeline is on the Eastside – largely due to Paul Allen’s long-term vision to add the market to the company’s portfolio of holdings. Our entry into the Bellevue submarket began with land purchases in Downtown Bellevue in 2016, followed by the groundbreaking of 555 Tower and West Main in early 2020. These projects, which are scheduled to deliver in Q4 2022 and Q1 2023, have been pre-leased to Amazon to help meet space needs for its anticipated 25,000 person Bellevue workforce, and will create 2 million square-feet of office space, 64,000 square-feet of ground level retail and publicly accessible open spaces and plazas.

West Main and 555 Tower taking shape in Downtown Bellevue. Photo by Patrick Bennett.

In July 2021, VRE announced the acquisition of our first residential project in the BelRed corridor. Construction on the 1.4-acre multifamily development site, named Ondina, began in November 2021 and is scheduled for completion in early 2024. Once complete, the community will add 249 apartment homes to the area, including 20 percent rent- and income-restricted units.

Designing Ondina

Developing a brand and design aesthetic for each of our residential projects that reflects the human experience is a key step in our development process and marketing strategy. The lifestyles and values of our target audience provide the foundation from which we begin planning our communities so that residents find meaning within them from the moment they walk in the door.

We draw inspiration from the lifestyles and values of our target audience to plan our communities

We work collaboratively with architects and designers to establish a concept for each residential project which also informs the architectural design. The process at Ondina was a little bit different since our purchase included both the land and the fully designed project. In this case, we took an already designed property and focused on re-envisioning the interior and customizing the brand direction to feel more like a VRE residential community.

Inspirational images for Ondina’s interior design approach

Our vision for the apartments originated from a water feature in the entry courtyard which inspired us to base the interior design on a concept called “Blue Mind Theory,” a scientifically supported theory whereby the presence of water or images of water can relax the mind and make one feel calmer, happier, healthier, and more connected. The theme of water has been incorporated into all aspects of the property from the building’s name, meaning “little wave” in Latin, to the interior finishes, artwork, and landscaping throughout the property. The contrast of the building’s industrial surroundings to its tranquil and serene interior will provide residents with a peaceful retreat that is theirs to call home.

Creating Accessibility

Adjacent to the future BelRed/130th Link Light Rail Station scheduled for completion in June 2022, Ondina will be transit-oriented; future residents will enjoy quick and easy access to major Eastside tech employers, such as Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, each of which will be only one or two light rail stops away. Travel between the BelRed station and Seattle will only take 24 minutes.

Ondina will participate in Bellevue’s Multi-family Tax Exemption (MFTE) program. Twenty percent of the units will be rent- and income-restricted for households earning 80 percent of Area Median Income. To advance housing affordability on the Eastside, the City of Bellevue, VRE, and other stakeholders collaborated to suggest guideline and incentive updates to further stimulate participation in the program. In July 2021, the Bellevue City Council voted unanimously to adopt the recommended updates, paving the way for additional affordable housing creation through MFTE.

View of Ondina from the SE corner

An Exciting Future

The Eastside is undergoing rapid change, diverging from its quiet, suburban past into a dynamic hub of innovation and activity. Ondina is just the first of what we expect will be many VRE residential developments on the Eastside. We are excited about the prospect of continued growth and creating places where life’s milestones are celebrated, memories are created, and communities come together.

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