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The East Link Extension-Changing the Greater Seattle Business Landscape

By Austin Lashley

Driving around Bellevue and Redmond, it is impossible to not notice the widespread construction along SR 520 and I-405. Sound Transit is pushing forward with their 30-year master plan, kicking off one of the largest light rail expansions in the United States. The new East Link extension will connect Seattle to the Eastside business hubs of Bellevue and Redmond. The new light rail line will debut in 2023, providing Puget Sound commuters and businesses with a greater sense of interconnectivity. The East Link Extension runs 14 miles with 10 stations starting in Seattle’s International District, extending over the I-90 floating bridge, Mercer Island, through Bellevue’s Central Business District and reaching Downtown Redmond by 2024. The light rail system is estimated to carry over 50,000 passengers a day once fully operational.

Photo via Nakano Associates.

The East Link extension will drastically impact the business scape of the greater Seattle area. Currently, companies face a workforce mobility issue when choosing between the traditionally “suburban” Eastside and “urban” Seattle markets. However, with the Eastside’s rapid development over the last 20 years, business centers such Bellevue and Redmond have evolved into more suburban-urban settings, fostering a dynamic business environment while also attracting a highly talented workforce. The new transit system will lower barriers of mobility and allow traditionally Seattle based employers to consider the Eastside as a new office space alternative.

The State of Washington estimates by 2030 demand for cross Lake Washington transit will more than double and Eastside job growth will continue to exceed national averages. Once the East Link extension is complete, many areas of Bellevue will have direct access to Downtown Seattle, with shorter commute times than some Seattle neighborhoods. This new reality and business landscape will considerably change how companies view the greater Seattle office market and further escalate demand throughout the Eastside.

Rendering via NSI Engineering.

Alongside the East Link extension new office developments are already being planned. Vulcan Real Estate is looking to make their Eastside debut in the next 4-5 years with proposed developments on Bellevue’s 106th Avenue and 108th Avenue, which would total approximately two million square feet of new office space. The Bel-Red corridor is also seeing the effects of the East Link extension with new developments already under construction. The Spring District, home to REI’s new headquarters which will deliver in 2020, contains approximately 800,000 square feet of office space, 20,000 square feet of retail, and over 800 apartment units in the first two of three phases. The development is centered around the new light rail with a designated Spring District station on 120th Street. The light rail will incentivize further transit-oriented developments throughout suburban Bellevue and Redmond. The economic outlook of the Eastside is bright, and the addition of the East Link light rail will only increase commercial real estate development and interconnectivity of Seattle and the greater Eastside.

A rendering of the Spring District.

Austin Lashley is an associate vice president of Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company with offices across the nation. Contact Austin at 1-844-662-6635 or austin@hughesmarino.com to learn more.

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