The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

August 7, 2013

A Twilight Walk Through Downtown Bellevue on a Fine Summer’s Evening

Filed under: Bellevue, Wanderings — Brian Lutz @ 11:18 pm

In case you haven’t noticed, around here Summer weather is a finite resource, and the time you’re spending reading this probably means you’re wasting it right this very minute.  Unless you happen to be reading it in the middle of the night or in the middle of February, in which case carry on.   After all, the climate around here provides no shortage of dreary 45-degree overcast days throughout the Fall, Winter and Spring, but the local meteorologists have taken to keeping track of summer weather (which they define as any recorded temperature over 80 degrees)  in minutes (in case you were wondering, as of the time this post is being written, the count stands at 4,537 and change for the year.)  Naturally, this means you need to take advantage of the nice weather whenever you get the chance.

With the way things have been at work lately, I’ve found that it’s been a little tough to find the time to take advantage of the Summer weather.  Sure, there’s (usually) weekends to go out and do stuff, and me and my friends have generally made adequate use of them when work doesn’t get in the way, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the week can be ignored.  A couple of evenings ago after I got home from work, the weather was just about perfect to go out and spend some time outside.  Lately in the evenings I’ve been spending time in the exercise room here at my apartment building, but since I managed to do 40 minutes on the elliptical trainer the night before, I figured I could get away with something a little less strenuous on this particular evening, and went out for a nice little walk right around twilight as darkness began to fall upon the city.

As I’ve alluded to in some of my previous posts, since I work over in Downtown Seattle these days and seem to spend inordinate amounts of time at the office lately, on occasion I find that I can feel a bit disconnected from the community I live in.  At times it seems like I end up going from home to work and back for weeks at a time, without much more than an occasional trip out for supplies or food in the evenings to break up the routine.  And yet, even if I’m spending all my time in this “disconnected” state, as soon as I return for a visit everything is immediately familiar once again.  Over time as you spend a lot of time in a certain place, you build up a mental map of it, to the point that you could be away from somewhere for years, and yet as soon as you return there you immediately know your way around.  Sure things can and will change over time, but ultimately things will still be familiar.  And yet, even if you think you know a place, you can still find things you never knew about, especially if you get a bit outside of your normal routine.

Sure enough, as I took my journey on this particular evening, I found a few surprises waiting for me in places I thought I knew well.  After the jump, follow along as I take a walk through Downtown Bellevue as nightfall descends upon the city.

From the corner of Northeast 8th Street and 110th Avenue Northeast, we see the Symetra Building and KeyCenter (which is the building I worked in for over a year during my stint at Motricity.)  Nothing too interesting going on here yet, but it’s not quite dark yet.

Looking to the South, we see one of the Bravern’s two residential towers, as well as the two City Center buildings and the Skyline Tower (which is home to Valve Software, where a decent amount of my money seems to end up anytime there’s a Steam sale) hiding behind them.

A block further up the road, we see the two towers of Washington Square, with the last light illuminating the sky behind them.  This time of the evening is typically known as the “Golden Hour” in photography, and you can see why.  Even the tired old strip malls in front of the towers can look surprisingly nice in the right light.

Moving ahead another block, we see the Paccar Tower (Bellevue’s first high-rise building, built in 1970) next to One Lincoln Square.  In between is a bank in the Mid-Century Modern style.

Looking across the block we see Bellevue Place, as well as the skybridge that connects it to Lincoln Square.

From the other skybridge across Bellevue Way, we see another view of Bellevue Place.  Off in the distance we see the two Avalon Bellevue Towers, which tend to stand out in their own little corner of the Downtown Area that the current building boom hasn’t quite reached yet.

Looking back in the direction we came from, we see another view of the Symetra Building and KeyCenter, along with the Bellevue Towers condos on the right side.  In the bottom left corner you can catch a glimpse of the former Safeway, which saw a notoriously brief revival as another short-lived independent grocery store about a year and a half ago, but has since fallen back into vacancy, and will likely soon fall to the wrecking ball as Kemper Freeman moves forward with his plans for the next phase of Lincoln Square.  At this point the darkness is beginning to fall in earnest.

Although the area between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square is one of the “busiest” areas in town with its collection of restaurants and shops, you don’t have to wander too far from there to get away from it.  In fact, if you get just a block away and head west a bit on Northeast 4th Street, you’ll find that things get much quieter in a hurry…

And then you reach Downtown Park.  Although this park is one of my favorite spaces to visit in Downtown Bellevue, I can’t recall ever being here at night.  Then again, most parks around here are closed at dusk anyway, so the thought just never occurred to me.

And yet Downtown Park happens to be surprisingly accommodating to nighttime visitors, providing ample illumination along the main path.  Granted, it’s not quite as bright as this picture seems to make it look (there was still a bit of residual daylight lingering around this time) but there’s still plenty of visibility.  I was somewhat surprised by just how many people were still in the park when I was there, with most of them seemingly either out walking dogs or just going for a little stroll or jog.

Looking back in the other direction, you can see the skyline of Bellevue in the background, which looks quite picturesque when viewed here, but that’s not even the best sight to see in the park.

Moving down toward the big water feature, we see the skyline in the reflecting pool at the top.  This happens to be one of my favorite places in Downtown Bellevue to take pictures, although it’s a little difficult to get the skyline properly reflected in the pool in the low light.  Maybe if I had a better camera I could do this, but this will have to do for now.

But perhaps the biggest surprise that came out this little excursion was this view of the big waterfall, which turns out to be rather brightly illuminated at night.

You can see a better view of the effect here, but to be honest this really doesn’t do it justice.  The effect looks so much nicer in person.  Even after years of living in Bellevue, I never knew that this was lit up at night like this.  Now that I know about it, I might have to visit more often.

Given the right light and the right backdrop (and a little bit of blurring to keep things just a tad ambiguous), you can even make a big concrete parking structure look surprisingly nice in this light.

As the last remaining daylight continued to fade, it was time to start heading back.  This was the scene looking south down Bellevue way near the side exit from the park.

The next couple of blocks from here don’t provide a whole lot in the way of scenery, but even though it was almost 10pm at this point, the Chipotle on Northeast 4th still appeared to be surprisingly busy.  Then again, in my experience this place is pretty much always busy.  Incidentally, the small patch of land next to this one recently sold for over $5 million, putting its value at a record-breaking $808 per square foot, which is  quite expensive even by Downtown Bellevue standards.  You can probably expect something much bigger here soon.

Along the way back we also see the Bellevue Galleria.  Not a whole lot of excitement to report here these days, but the two restaurants on the ground floor seemed to be pretty busy on this particular evening.

Following the pedestrian path that cuts through Downtown, we reach the Bellevue Transit Center, which still sees a fair bit of traffic even at this late hour.

Here’s a closer look at the art piece you see in the picture above.  The lights change color on a regular basis, so there’s a good chance this won’t look quite the same if you ever see it in the dark.

Also next to the Transit Center is this rather nice bed of yellow Daisies, which manages to look rather attractive even without the benefit of daylight.

Finally, as I approached home, I took a shortcut through the Bravern, which was mostly closed at this point but remained brightly lit nonetheless.  Apparently when you charge as much for your stuff as these places do you can afford to keep the lights on all night.

This picture could have turned out quite nice if I happened to have a better camera than the one on my phone, but the scene still looks quite nice anyway.  As long as you can conveniently ignore the runaway consumerism of the whole thing, I guess.

As I said earlier, it can be surprisingly easy to let yourself become disconnected from the community you live in when you don’t spend much time there, but as soon as you go back it can immediately start to feel familiar again.  Even so, there’s always surprises to be found if you go out looking for them, especially if you go out at a time when you might not normally do so.  Yes, I know that Downtown Bellevue can be a bit of an acquired taste (one that you apparently aren’t even allowed to acquire if you happen to live on the opposite side of the lake) but it’s times like this that remind me of why I enjoy living here so much.  I know I won’t be able to live here forever (if nothing else, the ever rising rents on apartments around here should see to that) but I might as well enjoy it while I can.  Even If I can’t afford to buy stuff from the neighbors.

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