Two years ago when my family and I drove north on I-405 through Bellevue, we would make a game out of counting how many tower cranes we could spot on the Bellevue Skyline. I remember at one point there were over ten tower cranes swinging back and forth in downtown indicating the City’s prosperity. Private construction was booming in all parts of the city. A few months ago on our trip through Bellevue, my sons remarked to me that there were no tower cranes on the horizon.
Recently, two Bellevue hotel projects that were shelved during the recession seem to be moving through the permitting process again. Hotel occupancy and room rates are recovering from the recession. Previously, Bellevue hotels were heavily dependent upon overflow bookings from travelers who couldn’t book rooms in Seattle. Now Bellevue is seen as a destination in its own right. The expansion of the regional shopping mall at Bellevue Square, the construction of Lincoln Square/Bellevue Place, and the new Bravern project all have contributed to Bellevue becoming a thriving shopping mecca for the “Eastside,” a community known for its many famous upper end income residents. Both the Bellevue Park Hotel (108 rooms) and Connecticut based HEI hospitality group (378 rooms) as well as the Essex on the Park (a 32 unit luxury condominium project just south of downtown Bellevue) have been putting their entitlements together to be in a position to hit the market and be operational when the market reaches its “full stride.” These may be the first indicators of the private construction market turning around much to the relief of beleaguered contractors in the Puget Sound area, perhaps the Bellevue skyline will once again be dotted with tower cranes.