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What Bellevue Can Teach DC

If you don't know Bellevue, Washington, you should. It's the "other" booming tech mecca near Seattle. What's its secret for attracting so many new jobs and residents, with such a giant competitor just 12 miles away?


It's a modern town of just 133,000 (i.e., only one-fifth the size of DC), yet full of tech companies and Millennials, and therefore filled these days with construction cranes building office, multifamily and retail.


300 Bellevue real estaters came to our Bisnow conference there the other day, and the following were offered as reasons for the boom:

  • The presence of private sector execs with a passion to help recruit companies and build a great community.
  • Great school and medical systems—both of which were insisted upon by the community and built up despite long odds.
  • Housing options that provide walkability and affordability to Millennials.
  • Flexibility of landlords to allow shorter or changeable terms for startups.
  • A park system to provide a appealingly green environment.
  • A performing arts center located in a mixed-use setting, facilitating an "extended community experience" both before and after performances, such as at restaurants.
  • Cultural diversity that engages multiple constituencies and provides more vibrant atmosphere.
  • A good vibe during both the night and the day.
  • Continuing efforts to improve the commute into and out of town.

Kemper Freeman, left, is a renowned retail developer (and former national chairman of ICSC) whose family company is undertaking billions of dollars of expansion; Kevin Wallace is also a developer, who doubles as a longtime city council member and now deputy mayor. Both like to build to actual demand for new product rather than speculatively. And they both see great retail as a magnet for all other kinds of real estate development—and for Millennials, tech company jobs and a booming economy