I’ve known since I moved to Bellevue that it is a city unlike any other. Cliché, I know, but stick with me for a minute.
The typical “city” aspect of Bellevue covers only twenty square blocks. Past that downtown core, Bellevue becomes much more suburban.
Bellevue lacks diversity in its population, as I discussed in my last post, but the city also lacks the diversity of scale found in larger cities. Seattle, for example, has a number of neighborhoods that span the density scale from suburban to high-rise. More importantly, Seattle has several neighborhoods at each scale.
Bellevue instead has only one neighborhood for each scale. The high-rises are downtown, bordered by Crossroads to the east – mid-range apartment complexes and townhouses, including a number of senior communities. Southwest of Crossroads is Factoria, the lower rent apartment complexes that house much of the city’s minorities. Both Crossroads and Factoria are anchored by shopping centers sharing the same names.
North of downtown quickly becomes quiet single-family detached housing following the shoreline of Lake Washington. Many of these properties clock in above the seven-figure mark. Slightly more affordable single-family homes can be found southeast of downtown between the Crossroads and Factoria nodes. Due south of downtown are low-rise townhouses.
Each neighborhood of Bellevue occupies its own niche on the density scale, effectively confining residents based on their housing needs or desires. The city’s diversity problem manifests itself both in demographics and organization.
Diversifying neighborhoods will be a critical means to diversifying the population, but one cannot effectively be accomplished without the other. To rescue Bellevue from its bland fate, the city needs to address both objectives to become the regional influence it strives to be.