Update 11/4/2010: An article from the Bellevue Reporter today provides some insight on future plans for the Kelsey Creek Center, suggesting a target of May 2011 for a start to construction activity, and suggesting that there will be renovation of the existing buildings on the site to split the old Kmart building into smaller stores (with a maximum size of 65,000 square feet, roughly the size of a large grocery store) as well as new construction of a third building. It also mentions KeyBank as redeveloping the former Shell station on the corner (presumably into a bank branch,) although that site is not a part of the Kelsey Creek Center property. You can find the article with more details here. And by the way, the Chevron station which was vacant at the time I wrote the original post has since been renovated and reopened, but you probably already know that if you ever drive by there.
Some time ago on this Blog, I wrote about the former Kmart store on 148th in Bellevue, a store which closed back in 2002 and has remained vacant with few signs of life since that time. Costco has now twice abandoned tentative plans to redevelop the former store (first into a concept grocery store which was to be known as Costco Fresh, then later into a more conventional Costco warehouse,) on both occasions being priced out of the property by a City of Bellevue zoning requirement for any new development in the Kelsey Creek Center to “daylight” the Creek, a stream which currently runs underneath the property in a concrete culvert. Not only would this requirement have resulted in an expense of over half a million dollars for the required stream improvements, but it would have also significantly reduced the amount of parking available at the site. In short, these zoning requirements have basically made the site all but completely impractical to develop anything on. That may be about to change.
According to this Bellevue Reporter article, the City of Bellevue has approved a zoning change to the Kelsey Creek Center site that will eliminate the requirement for a redevelopment project to daylight the creek by having Franklin West LLC (the property owner of the site) perform $585,000 worth of mitigation activities elsewhere on Kelsey Creek and on Larsen Lake (which the creek feeds into.)
As you can see, the culvert through which the creek flows under the parking lot is far from a pretty sight, and I can’t say I’d blame the city for wanting to daylight the stream. On the other hand, without the zoning change in question, it is highly likely that the property would just remain vacant for the foreseeable future, a scenario which doesn’t benefit anyone.
In addition to the long-vacant Kmart store, there are now two vacant former gas stations on two corners of 148th and Main which have both closed recently. The first one above is a former Chevron station (as should be fairly obvious from the colors,) while the second was originally a Texaco and later became a Shell (in fact, there used to be two Texaco stations across from each other at this intersection; the other became the 76 you see in the background,) As you can see here, when Shell abandoned the station (and another on 140th in the Overlake area) they painted everything a uniform shade of grey to hide any signs of the station’s former heritage. Some time ago there was a land use application sign at this location indicating plans to demolish it, although it is unclear what will happen here. The other station across the street appears has had some recent activity, although it is unclear if this activity is to repurpose the station, or if it is merely to dismantle it and remove whatever equipment may be used elsewhere.
With the daylighting requirement on Kelsey Creek removed, a redevelopment of the site may actually become feasible, although it is not entirely clear at this point what interest there may be in the site if any. As mentioned above, Costco has now twice abandoned plans for the former Kmart store, and with the proposed Redmond Costco store remaining in limbo in spite of having the required permit approvals in place, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll be trying again in Bellevue anytime soon. Walmart seems like a slight possibility (aside from one Sams Club store in North Seattle there are no Walmart stores between Renton and Lynwood currently, and I suspect Mike McGinn would personally be leading the pitchforks-and-torches mob if they ever tried to put a Walmart in Seattle,) but I’d guess the possibility is remote at best. Target had planned to build a new store as part of the now greatly scaled-down Factoria Mall redevelopment, but now seems content to stay put in their existing store there. If I had to guess, I’d say that any project on this site would probably be a mixed-use development of some sort, possibly with an undetermined box store anchor.
At this point, I suppose anything would be better than what’s currently here, which is nothing.