Is Bellevue the Next Williamsburg?

The world's first floating light rail line is going to change Seattle's relationship to the big city on the other side of Lake Washington.



"weirdos and warehouse parties." You do realize that the development you are describing is getting rid of the warehouses? Bellevue is ALREADY too expensive for any of the Bohemian kind of stuff you are postulating, and the light rail is not going to change that (in fact, the redevelopment around the stations is likely to do the opposite.


"Balducci responded with a long pause, like she was searching for a way to shut down my question without sounding rude."

I'll be more than happy to shut you down by telling you that this is a stupid fucking question.


Well, Bellevue has gone from 80% white to 60% white in 25 years according to the census (more PoC than Seattle!) and is expected to become 50% white in less than a decade, so to be Williamsburg you're gonna have to kick all those PoC living in single family homes out.


Yet another blog post on how to house college-educated, white creatives who haven't figured out how to make money yet and refuse to get real jobs.

The answer?

Make Bellevue more white like they did to Williamsburg!


Yeah, unlike Williamsburg, Bellevue is already an affluent place. This will just make it more expensive and accessible to people who can afford to live there. It's a ways off, but Everett feels like a more likely place for a Williamsburg moment. There's already a great Artspace building up there with awesome views of the Sound. Drive up and walk around the downtown. You'll see what I mean.

But south of Seattle is the more likely place something like that could happen. White Center, South Park, and Burien are already on that path. Renton/Skyway/Tukwila also have possibilities. And of course, Tacoma keeps moving in that direction. They'll be light rail from Seattle to the Tacoma Dome by 2030. Pretty sure there's already light rail from the Tacoma Dome to downtown Tacoma.

Also, keep your eye on Rainier Ave S between Jackson and Walden (and the streets on either side of it). I predict that stretch is going to be unrecognizable in 10 years. So close to the Judkins Park light rail, which is going to be one of the most useful stops on the entire system (along with ID station), because it's about the same distance from the eastside and Northgate. As I understand it, Eastlink trains are going to continue north up to Northgate. So if you board at Judkins, you can go to downtown bellevue, Capitol Hill, UW, or Northgate without having to transfer (would need to transfer to go south to the Airport, etc.). Eastlink will also mean more frequent Link service between the ID and Northgate. Because you'll be able to get on either a north link train or an east link train between those stops.


"But what I expect is going to happen is there's just going to be a lot more back and forth—that there will be people that live in Bellevue that work in South Lake Union and Seattle. And there will be people that live in NORTH Seattle who continue to work in Bellevue and Redmond."

Emphasis added.

That should tell you exactly what kind of neighborhood character Balducci has in mind for "Bel-Red."


"Bellevue is already an affluent place."

How is the possible since it has more people of color than Seattle?


@7 They're the affluent people of color.


@8 They don't exist in Lesterland.



Do you know something about the upcoming rezone that you're not sharing with the rest of us? Almost that entire stretch of Rainier is and will be zoned commercial or industrial, to three blocks on either side, where it abruptly transitions to SF5000.

If the general public picked a nickname for that "neighborhood," the winner, hands down, would be "I90 Exit 3." They're not going to be closing the auto entrance/exit ramps when they open the light rail station, are they?

Are you sitting on an ill-considered parcel or two in that wasteland that you haven't been able to unload without taking a loss?


The short answer is no. Not even remotely. If you had been to Williamsburg in the 1990s you would understand why. The Williamsburg of today is just like Manhattan, only people love to forget it (and Greenpoint, where one of the largest waste transfer stations exists - and I don't mean garbage I mean sewage) are built, literally, on toxic waste dump sites. Look for their nearest wasteland built on top of dump where currently only poor people, non-white people live, and that's what you can call Seattle's equivalent to Williamsburg.


It seems like Georgetown was/is Seattle's Williamsburg and it already happened.


It is not.



Talking to yourself with those throwaway accounts is kind of a new thing for you, isn't it?

Looks like it's more than just the ban-evasion you're after, now.


Columbia City is Seattle's Williamsburg.


Well there is somewhat of a glaring difference between Williamsburg and Smellview: the former was, before it became hip, an interesting, historic neighborhood. The latter is (and always will be) a soul-crushingly bland suburb. And true, it is a soul-crushingly bland suburb that is also already ludicrously expensive.


" The latter is (and always will be) a soul-crushingly bland suburb. "

Then how come Bellevue is less white than soul-inspiring Seattle? Do PoC have less soul in your opinion?


Wow, great article Lester, ignore the haters.Well-researched, well-presented and provocative in a good way. One of your best efforts.


@17 Always good to see Lester's dad stop by. Did you send him his rent check this month yet?



Columbia City (and North Beacon Hill) are both already well past the point where your marginally-employed artsy types can still afford rent, never mind the costs of an off-kilter small business.

Seattle's Williamsburg these days is like... Bellingham? I mean, that's the kind of place the funky-craftsy kids seem to be flocking to when they come into a little money and want to open their bakery/bike-shops or brewery/yarn-stores or puppy-rental-cafes or what have you.


@10: Not sitting on any parcels. Just live near there, so I've been watching that area evolve over the last 10-12 years. It's much less of a wasteland now than it was 12 years ago. And the trend continues.

Have you been down on that stretch lately? Have you seen the apartments going up on the Northeast corner of Dearborn and Rainier Ave S and all the Apartment construction that's happened on Hiawatha Pl since the Hiawatha Artist Lofts got built? Have you gone through Northeast Beacon Hill from Maclellan north between 17th Ave S and Rainier Ave S? 4 pack townhomes are rapidly pushing out most of the SF homes? Have you been following the move to slow down traffic on Rainier Ave S? The plans for the Lowe's lot across from Mt Baker Station, which was up-zoned to 12 stories and will likely have office space? New school on the Imperial Lanes site.

Plan to split more of the arterial traffic onto MLK from Rainier.

You don't roll zoning changes out all at once. Industrial Zoning isn't an immutable thing. It can be changed. It was changed in SLU. And I predict that it will be changed here as denser housing gets built adjacent to it (which is already happening). The same is true in SODO. Just wait.

4 townhomes for 1 SFH doesn't add density like a 6 story apartment building does, but it most cases, it still doubles or triples the density on any lot where townhomes replace a SFH. So Northeast Beacon Hill is going to be considerably denser than it used to be. Vulcan development at 23rd and Jackson is also tied into Judkins stop.

Everybody has been talking down the Street Car. But from the moment it was built, I said that eventually, once it was established, you'd see people lobbying to ban cars from its path. That process has now started (See recent article in the Stranger). I doubt that will happen anytime soon. But eventually, it will happen. Like I said, in stages. So people have a chance to get used to smaller changes first. Rainier Ave is the same.


Sooooo, when people say less white, does that also mean less upper middle class? Indian and Asian doesn't necessarily imply Columbia City/Beacon Hill/Rainier Valley economic diversity.



Yes, less white does mean lower-income.

The demographic shift in Seattle over the past half-century is almost entirely due to immigration. Since immigration roughly samples global population, it is majority non-white. Since immigration roughly samples global population, it is in aggregate much poorer than the US population. It's pretty simple, really.

This does not mean there are no wealthy immigrants-- it just means there are relatively few of them.

There are masses of poor Asian immigrants living in Seattle; you just don't hang out with them at your white-collar job, and don't encounter them in service roles due to their limited English skills. Pick a church in south Beacon Hill at random and attend a service, you might be surprised at what you see.

There are poor Indian immigrants in Seattle, too -- not all Indians are programmers, you know. Have you gone out for Indian food recently? Or ever?

The poor are often invisible to the privileged, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.


"Is Bellevue about to become a bastion of cheaper housing that artists and creatives will flock to? Balducci responded with a long pause, like she was searching for a way to shut down my question without sounding rude."

I think she was just confused by your non sequitur question.

Maybe Bellevue will become just like Seattle's Ballard! Or Maybe Ballard will become like Seattle's Bellevue. One or the other, surely.


Thank you for this well-written article on the engineering challenges of a floating light rail line. Mixing it in with a hipster wish list for Bel-Red Road (!) made for an interesting read, to say the least.

“Will trendy cafes, music venues, and breweries follow?”

The Bellevue Brewing Company is already there. Try it sometime!


"less white does mean lower-income"

OK, so then how come Bellevue is less white than Seattle but with more expensive housing and more single family homes?

What's their magic sauce?

Come on, you can say it, they're people of color too, they just don't divorce much, value education and hard work. Can you name them or do not not count as "not white" because they know how to use condoms?


No it won't become the next Williamsburg because Seattle is not New York and never will be no matter how much it tries to compare itself to it. That metro area is 5 times as big and was founded 200 years before Seattle.

For reference for future articles, comparable metro areas (by population) include the Twin Cities, Detroit, San Diego, and Tampa - although all of those are more racially diverse than Seattle according to WalletHub, which probably cramps the hipster thing since that's a predominantly white thing.


Mr. Black- please consider using a different camera. The focal point is somewhere in the center, leaving the near and far a bit fuzzy.
This is not necessarily a comment about the article itself.


Williamsburg? No. More like TechBroBurg.


@25 I know you are just doing a bit of racist trolling here but I'd say the 'special sauce' is that a large percentage of the 'POCs' in Bellevue work in the technology field.

I've worked alongside some of them and they all thought the soul-crushing blandness was just great, which is perhaps understandable considering that, for all its dreary office park qualities, Bellevue is a nicer place to live than say New Delhi.


Why Bellevue and not, say, Lynnwood? Lynnwood is more affordable, will also have light rail, AND it has "LYN" built into its name, like Brooklyn, so we can all say "Brooklyn-nwood" for a few months five years from now.


@19 So is Williamsburg


Another apparent ex-patriot desperately trying to compare where he came from to Seattle and the Puget Sound region, and not at all understanding the inherent differences.

Artsy fartsy types will never be able to afford Bellevue and much of the Eastside, especially when Microsoft surpasses Apple as the world's most valuable company. The Eastside is still a highly-compensated techie haven. If the percentage of white residents there is declining, it because of all the H1-B visa workers being imported by the tech companies there.

Non-technie newcomers - please note that Amazon is NOT the only tech in the region (only the most high profile) and there are other big tech companies located on the Eastside.


At a cafe in Wallingford right now, there are 35 people - including the lone employee who doesn’t even have a dish slave(East Coast gasp) - and 12 of them are verifiably minorities.

That’s not counting one girl who could be in several camps, the oldish lady with very short hair, and the really thin guy with fine features and long hair.



Speaking of Seattle's Brooklyn, anyone remember the issue years ago that The Stranger devoted to Bremerton? Everyone should move there, buy property, make it hip... Maybe it was all satire.


I've been living in Bellevue for about 18 years, Lived in Seattle and commuted to the Eastside before that, cause you couldn't find a tech job in Seattle until I left. But let me just say this about Bellevue: What is was, isn't what it is, and what is is, isn't what it will be. It's changing, structurally, as noted in the article, and it's changing at close to the the rate of South Lake Union. I get lost in downtown Bellevue. All my markers are gone. On the other hand, I don't need to go into parking-free Seattle to eat anymore. So done with that.

But anyway, you know what changes faster than the buildings? the demographics of the people in the buildings, and you know all those apartments that used to be filled with software nerds back in the 90's? Well they're full of H1B immigrants now. And you know what? They seem to be starting families while living in those apartments. They don't need to hold off until they can afford the downpayment on a giant 4 bedroom on a tiny lot in Maple Valley. They're getting it done in an apartment, in Bellevue, where they can take transit to work. More power to them.

But the point is: Bellevue is not going to become Brooklyn, as appealing as that might be for Seattle douchecanoes that never leave the ten block radius of their favorite coffee shop. There aren't any precedents for what Bellevue is, nor are the precedents for where it is going. It's gonna be something, and I have no idea what, but I love it. Let us all join hands as we step forth into the void.


I’ve always thought of west Bellevue as more like a Northwest version of Century City/Beverly Hills; the housing expense certainly reflects that.

Comparisons to East Coast cities just don’t make sense given their longer histories and multidecade waves of ethnic, cultural, and architectual change.


Putting aside for a brief moment all our racial / cultural / geographic / autobiographic / socioeconomic status animosities and anxieties, a functioning rapid transit system is probably the most important bit of work needed to keep this area alive and working for the next century. That and an excellent education system. Our metropolitan salvation is not likely to be found in flying motorcycles, self-driving cars and electric scooters.


Yea, uh, Bellevue is MORE expensive than Seattle.

This light rail will make South Seattle a lower housing cost area for people who work in Bellevue or Redmond.

The really more affordable areas light rail is starting to reach are the ones way north and way south.


The next Williamsburg? Bellevue?! Snort. Fanciful. As Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, uncharitably and perhaps no longer true, "There's no 'there' there." Oh, there will be something there, and perhaps all this new-city fashioning will have some results, but I have difficulty seeing much more than an amalgam of the combined soulfulness of SLU, generic office park and Redmond Mall, frankly. You have to start with some residual organic fabric to get a gentrified Williamsburg, some character of place that evolved over human-influenced cultural time (and not from a mid-century suburban genesis). Some feel... What's the residual organic fabric of Bel-Red?


@39 for what it's worth, that's how people in Manhattan used to look at Brooklyn; It's still how people look at the parts of Brooklyn that haven't been gentrified yet


Comparing Bellevue to Thousand Oaks might be more useful.


This is article is so dumb that It makes me feel angry.


The title and cover for this story were such absurdly obvious clickbait (and a noticeably substandard example of such for the Stranger) that I almost skipped it. Of course the author doesn't even try to make a case for B'vue=W'burg, which did not surprise me at all, although the "wait, hear me out" opening line was super-annoying in that light. I did wait and hear you out, and you got nothin'.

The stark reality is that unlike NYC and the Bay area, Seattle has no real urban "frontiers" other than Tacoma (like it or not). Bellevue can't conceivably come anywhere near filling that role. It's already more pervasively gentrified even than Seattle and has less urban vibe even than Everett. I look forward to Eastside Link, it will be very good for our overall regional mobility and some relatively affordable housing will be built near the stations. Awesome. But most of the development it will foster will be business, corporate retail, condos and high-end rentals. Light rail won't do anything to create the big, cheap spaces artists tend to need (for both living and working) that don't now exist in Bellevue.


oops, meant to say "business parks" in next-to-last sentence :~*


Williamsburg is the next Bellevue is more like it...
FYI, Williamsburg was one subway stop away from the East Village and was the first gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, and the subway ride between the two stops is only 2 minutes.
Brooklyn neighborhoods like Fort Greene and Prospect Heights soon followed. Once Crown Heights and Bed Stuy got gentrified, I couldn’t believe it. Sunset Park, East New York, and Bay Ridge are on their way; Queens, not just Astoria and NYC, but also Jackson Heights, Woodside and Corona Park, especially with Amazon coming to town, are not far behind. The Bronx, Stamford, CR, Newark, and Paterson, NJ, will have their day. So anything is possible. Back in the day, the West Village really was a Village, and Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island weren’t even part of New York City.
The possibility for putting art and design at the center of this urban planning and community development is great and is usually considered best practice. I hope the city and Developers are pushing for it. But you also can’t create something out of nothing — the “no there there” principle strongly applies imo.


I've had a lot of bohemian experiences in the Seattle that is now gone. Never once did I have a bohemian experience in Bellevue. The sum of my bohemian experiences there were having sex in a car in a parking garage, which would now be much more patrolled. I also dated some suburban Bellevue princesses. They were cute over there. However, they always came to Seattle to have fun or into the mountains, Monroe, the Gorge etc. I'm sure there was some party in Bellevue, mostly at people's homes, but cmon. I don't know where this bohemian zone is supposed to arise. When we tear down all that million dollar mid-century wealthy family housing that starts in eastern Bellevue and goes to Lake Sammamish? I'm sure all those people will be really happy about you trying to covert their area to an artist community. Why don't you try to make something bohemian happen in Tacoma or Puyallup? In regards to this question of artist space, the closest intelligent option that mixes affordability and big enough city buzz is Portland.

All the major West Coast cities are over, except for LA, which is its own kind of uncomfortable hell. Everett could be an arts center, but none of the people who run these towns want real bohemian centers. They might want glass shops and scenic painting galleries. Anyone want to cultivate Yakima or Spokane? Kind of a long ways.

Seattle had its bohemian phase, and Microsoft and Amazon both got large after that scene happened and some things have been forced out in limited remaining space. Don't let being comfortable in Seattle lull you into thinking you're going to find a free night of slumming bohemia. It's prob not going to happen here, even if we finally get a train we could've used 25 years ago if it weren't for all the NIMBY dunderheads that still run this boring burg. A lot of people have been saying for a long time we would be a major urban player some day culturally, but it was pretty much short-circuited by success within years of it going global. When it was only Microsoft, Seattle still had some edge and affordability. Amazon was in the nail in the coffin. If these hiccup, maybe something will happen, but Y A W N....don't wait for it. Leave!


“I don't know where this bohemian zone is supposed to arise.”

In the light-industrial district of Bel-Red, in Bellevue; just where the author wrote. There are no million-dollar palaces there, but there are a lot of warehouses, factories, and car dealerships.

I rather doubt anything “Bohermian” will arise there, but that’s where the author was writing about.


As someone who grew up outside Seattle and currently lives in NYC, the sheer idiocy of this comparison is beyond description. I could not think of two more disparate places. NYC’s expansiveness, waves of turnover and revival reflect continually competing interests between cultural and corporate America that are inherently unique—informed by the city’s rich history and infrastructure. Moreover, NYC’s diversity quite simply put, dwarfs Seattle’s. This is not to put down Seattle—I love the place. But anyone who’s spent time in both cities would know, the two just shouldn’t be compared like this. Comparing Williamsburg to Bellevue is a joke. Culturally, historically, ethnically, and quite literally, this is a tale of two—very different—cities.


Evelmat, please go back to NY. Thank you.


More excellent transit options for the east side, yippee. Meanwhile, the intersection of Lake City Way and NE 95th Street has no sidewalks and is very dangerous to pedestrians. Forget even trying to access public transit at that intersection if you are mobility impaired. I will never understand the great minds behind the regional transit system. Sound Transit has LUGGAGE RACKS on their fancy schmancy busses. The NE of Seattle is apparently unworthy of transit dollars. We do not all live in those million dollar houses in Wedgwood and drive alone in our nice cars to our jobs.


No, Bellevue won't accept new populations because of light rail. It has exceptionally backward and restrictive zoning. Even more so than Seattle. There are single family homes 1 block from the "dense core" with no transition, and those neighborhoods remain exclusionary and exclusive.

They'll need to massively overhaul that (as Seattle needs to as well, but Seattle's already WAY ahead of Bellevue) if they want to have more diversity of housing on offer. And frankly, all signs point to them explicitly NOT wanting diverse housing stock. They barely wanted light rail.

Also, everyone touting Bellevue's ethnic diversity is just glossing over the fact that 2 new ethnic groups that represent zero economic diversity doesn't add up to "Bellevue is more diverse than Seattle." Bellevue's Single Family Home market is even more expensive than Seattle's. You can substitute "rich flight" for "white flight" if you like, but it doesn't add up to diversity.


The only affordable housing in that area left is not in "Bel-Red", it's to the east and north of Redmond. Developing Bel-Red into Hipsterville is only gonna make the problem even worse. Do you really want newcomers to have to commute into the city from Back Diamond because that's how far out they have to go to buy a house?


In 10-15 odd years, if Kemper Freeman is still alive, I would like to ask him if he still thinks light rail was bad for Bellevue.


Bellevue is a great place for families. Diverse faith community. Superb schools.
Grow up.
Normal is not "bland."
Normal is nice. Get a wife. Please her. It's a good goal.
Don't let Seattle consume you. Used needles. Homeless camps. Parks that are dog-poo collection points.
Raw loneliness amidst the porn-addicted tech bros. It's no secret.
Ditch it. Buy into Bellevue before you're priced out.
P.S. - Bellevue Presbyterian has a great, welcoming singles ministry. Non-crazy women await you, dateless Seattle dudes. Meet 'em.
Don't be a 43-year-old leftover. That aging guy at the bar...