Update 3/4/2011: A Bellevue Reporter article was published yesterday with new information on redevelopment plans for Kelsey Creek Center and the former KMart store. According to the article, the former KMart building will be renovated into a health club and an unspecified grocery store. The renovations are expected to begin soon, with completion planned in time for the 2011 Holiday season You can find the article on the redevelopment of Kelsey Creek Center here.
Update 6/9/2010: The city of Bellevue has agreed to change the zoning regulation that would require daylighting of Kelsey Creek in exchange for mtiigation activities elsewhere on the creek, which may make a redevelopment of this center actually feasible, although it is unclear if there is any specific interest in doing so at this time. See this post for more details.
Update 11/12/2008: Based on a different version of the article on the Costco cancellation posted by the Kirkland Reporter (as opposed to the Bellevue Reporter which posted the original article,) it turns out that plans are in fact still in the works for a Redmond Costco on Union Hill Road. Unfortunately, there are no details to indicate whem we might actually see that happen. The Kirkland Reporter version of the article with this info can be found here. Also of note with regards to Costco is the fact that the Kirkland location is trying to get approval to add a gas station (more info on that can be found here.)
If you’ve driven through Bellevue on 148th Avenue Northeast anytime within the last few years, chances are that you’ve probably noticed the former Kmart store at the corner of 148th and Main which at this point has now sat empty for six years. Although the Kelsey Creek Center which it once anchored seems to be getting along just fine without the store that used to anchor it, it’s hard not to notice the big empty building that takes up a sizable chunk of the property and the large parking lot which sees little use except when the Funtastic Carnival rolls into town for a week or so each year.
This particular store closed back in 2002 during Kmart’s chapter 11 bankruptcy, but on the rare occasions that I shopped at the store when it was still open I was less than impressed by the place, and everywhere you looked you could find excessive wear and tear that indicated that they were skimping on even the basic maintenance. At the time, the Overlake Fred Meyer store didn’t look all that great, but it was still in far better shape overall (and a couple of years ago that store got a major interior remodel that made it look a whole lot nicer than it used to.) Given the choice between this store and one of the nice clean Target stores found scattered throughout the area, it was no surprise that people weren’t shopping here. A Kmart store up in Everett on Highway 99 which is still operating now doesn’t look a whole lot better.
In the six years since this store closed, there have been a couple of different attempts to utilize the property again, both by Costco. The frist time around (back in 2003 or so,) Costco had made plans to build a new concept grocery store here, although ultimately those plans never materialized. In the last year or so, Costco has once again had their eye on this property, proposing to demolish the existing building and replace it with a more standard Costco warehouse, complete with gas station. Unfortunately, it looks like this plan won’t be happening either, as an article in the Bellevue Reporter today reported that Costco has once again cancelled their plans for this site, apparently citing problems with zoning regulations as the reason.
The main obstacle that is getting in the way of redevelopment of this particular site seems to be Kelsey Creek, from which this site derives its name. As you can (sort of) see from the photo above, there is a culvert that the stream runs through, which goes under the parking lot. In the article, it is reported that zoning regulations would have required uncovering the stream in order to redevelop the property, a process which apparently would have proven to be prohibitively expensive. Although discussions on changing the zoning requirements have apparently been ongoing in the Bellevue City Council, I suspect that current economic conditions may have also contributed to the cancellation of this project. Costco has also made plans to build a new store in Redmond on Union Hill Road using a portion of the Cadman site, but although the store was originally planned for a Fall 2008 opening, they haven’t lifted a shovel on building that one either.
With Costco apparently out of the picture for this particular site, it appears that once again for the foreseeable future this old Kmart store will remain vacant, at least until a solution to the Kelsey Creek problem (and someone willing to actually deal with it in whatever manner the Bellevue City Council and Kelsey Creek Neighborhood council decide) can be found. Having a big empty former box store sitting in the middle of what is otherwise a vibrant neighborhood doesn’t really do anybody any good, but with the amount of red tape hanging over the place, I’m not sure what could be done with it. Anyone got any ideas?