Economic growth and new development were at the center of discussion for five Eastside mayors Wednesday as they took questions at the Bellevue Downtown Association’s annual forum.
Asked to give a 20-year outlook, Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee envisioned that downtown alone would add 38,000 jobs and 9,000 new residents.
Just as Bellevue planned its growth downtown many years ago, Issaquah is going through a similar process with its Central Issaquah Plan, said Mayor Ava Frisinger.
She spoke about how increasing density, instead of suburban sprawl, is better for the environment. Issaquah expects to add 8,00-9,000 new housing units, many multiple family, and about 7-10 million square feet of commercial development in the next 20 years.
Kirkland, Redmond and Mercer Island all foresaw the impacts light rail will have on their communities in the next 20 years.Redmond Mayor John Marchione spoke in depth about building up the city’s spring district and adding more residential housing closer to downtown.
“You’ll have more choices of where you want to live,” he said.
Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett was more conservative, saying that the island city will look much like it does today. “We’re trying to have economic development and move forward, but we’re trying to do it in ways that lower impact,” Bassett said.
While Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride foresaw population growth in the next 20 years, she focused on the city’s new “world class” indoor recreation center and commitment to parks.
One of the goals of the moderator, James Whitfield, was to focus on how the cities can collaborate on issues.Including a comment from Marchione about working through issues on the Bel-Red Road, the mayors felt they had done well at collaborating.
“It’s unusual where we don’t work well together,” McBride said.
Marchione recalled one incident where a business came to Redmond, bragging that it would help with economic development. He was interested at first, but when he learned they were from Factoria, he told them he didn’t consider the move adding to the economy.
Economic development is regional, not just civic, he said.