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Bellevue is Seattle's fast-rising neighbor across Lake Washington. A major business and employment center, Bellevue's population is around 120,000, making it the second largest city center in the state of Washington. Named the best place to live and launch a business by a number of national publications, the Bellevue skyline is a perfect image of the city: its rapid growth and gleaming new skyscrapers are inhabited by some of the world's most powerful companies, and they personify Bellevue's business-friendly nature. West Bellevue has some of the most luxurious waterfront locations as well as high-rise condos and upscale neighborhoods. Heading East and South, Bellevue neighborhoods are more quiet and residential, with still-strong real estate values but more affordable opportunities. Commuting into Seattle from Bellevue is also quick, with the I-90 and 520 Floating Bridges providing access. The Bellevue School District is regularly rated as one of the best in the nation, and the shopping, retail, and entertainment amenities in Bellevue rival any city in terms of style and variety.
Bellevue (/ˈbɛlvjuː/ BEL-vyoo) is a city in the Eastside region of King County, Washington, United States, across Lake Washington from Seattle. As the third-largest city in the Seattle metropolitan area, Bellevue has variously been characterized as an edge city, a suburb, boomburb, or satellite city. Its population was 122,363 at the 2010 census and 148,164 in a 2019 census estimate.
As of 2019, the city promotes itself as a diverse, global city at the heart of Seattle's Eastside, and home to some of the world's most innovative technology companies. Prior to 2008, downtown Bellevue underwent rapid change, with many high-rise projects under construction, and was relatively unaffected by the economic downturn. The downtown area is currently the second-largest city center in Washington state, with 1,300 businesses, 45,000 employees, and 10,200 residents. Based on per capita income, Bellevue is the sixth-wealthiest of 522 communities in the state of Washington. In 2008, Bellevue was number one in CNNMoney's list of the best places to live and launch a business, and in 2010 was again ranked as the fourth-best place to live in America. In 2014, Bellevue was ranked as the second-best place to live by USA Today. More than 145 companies have been located in Bellevue. Current companies with headquarters in Bellevue include PACCAR Inc, T-Mobile, and Valve.
The name "Bellevue" is derived from the French words for "beautiful view".
City of Bellevue
The Duwamish, whose main settlements were located in what is present day Renton and Seattle, maintained a small outpost settlement called Satskal along the Mercer Slough, south of present day downtown Bellevue.
Bellevue was first settled by European Americans in 1869 by William Meydenbauer and Aaron Mercer, who claimed homestead tracts several miles apart. Both moved away within a few years, and permanent residents did not arrive until 1879. By 1882 a community, consisting mostly of logging homesteaders, had established itself. Once the land had been logged, it was gradually cleared, largely by Japanese immigrant labor in the early 20th century, to support small scale farming on leased land plots.
By the early part of the 20th century, Bellevue had acquired a reputation as a weekend getaway destination for Seattle residents, who would arrive by ferry at Meydenbauer Bay and spend the day at nearby Wildwood Park. After the ferry landing was moved to Medina, however, tourism to Bellevue waned. To counter this decline, the Bellevue Strawberry Festival was conceived of in 1925, and by the 1930s it had grown to attract as many as 15,000 visitors. At the time, Bellevue was still a small town with around 2,000 residents.
Bellevue seen from Meydenbauer Bay in 1902
Prior to the opening of the Lake Washington Floating Bridge in 1940, Bellevue was mostly rural farmland area with little development. Although it was small, developers were pushing to change that; in the 1920s, James S. Ditty predicted that it would become a city with a population of 200,000. He envisioned plans that included the bridging of Lake Washington and an area filled with golf courses and airports. His map with these visions was published in 1928. Once the Murrow Memorial Bridge opened, access from Seattle improved, and the area began to evolve into a bedroom community.
In 1942, the Bellevue Strawberry Festival was cancelled. The primary reason was that some 90 percent of the agricultural workforce in the area was of Japanese ancestry, and all of these farmers and their families had been forcibly interned in camps following the start of World War II. The fair would not be revived for another 45 years. Following the expulsion of the ethnic Japanese farming community, a large quantity of farmland became available for development. This made way for the initial development of the Bellevue downtown area.
Bellevue incorporated as a third-class city on the March 21, 1953. Following the 1963 opening of a second bridge across the lake, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, the city began to grow more rapidly. The Crossroads community was annexed in 1964. Lake Hills was annexed in 1969. By the 1970 census, Bellevue had become the fourth most populous city in the state of Washington, following only Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma.
Bellevue remains one of the largest cities in the state, with several high-rise structures in its core and a burgeoning business community. The city experienced a building boom during the mid 2000s, with the building of developments such as Lincoln Square and the Bravern.
Reflective of Bellevue's growth over the years is Bellevue Square, now one of the largest shopping centers in the region. Opened in 1946, the mall has undergone several significant phases of expansion since the 1980s.
The city's plans include the Bel-Red Corridor Project, a large-scale planning effort to encourage the redevelopment of the large Bel-Red section of the city bordering the adjacent town of Redmond which is a major employment area in the city. Patterned after what planners consider the successful redevelopment of the downtown core, plans include superblock mixed-use projects similar to Lincoln Square, premised on private construction and the development of infrastructure such as the extension of Link Light Rail to the Eastside.
Bellevue lies between Lake Washington to the west and the smaller Lake Sammamish to the east. Much of Bellevue is drained by the Kelsey Creek watershed, whose source is located in the Larsen and Phantom Lake green belt and whose outlet is near where Interstate 90 meets Lake Washington's eastern shore. The city is bisected by Interstate 405 running north–south, and the southern portion is crossed from west to east by Interstate 90. The State Route 520 freeway roughly delineates the upper reaches of Bellevue.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 36.47 square miles (94.46 km2), of which, 31.97 square miles (82.80 km2) is land and 4.50 square miles (11.65 km2) is water.
The city's name is derived from a French term for "beautiful view". Under favorable weather conditions, scenic vistas of the Olympic Mountains and Cascade Mountains can be viewed from hilltops (and strategically positioned high-rise buildings) within the incorporated city.
South of I-90, the city continues up Cougar Mountain, at the top of which is an unincorporated King County location called Hilltop. To the west of Cougar Mountain, Bellevue includes the Coal Creek, Somerset, and Factoria neighborhoods.
Bellevue is bordered by the cities of Kirkland to the north and Redmond to the northeast along the Overlake and Crossroads neighborhoods. Across the short East Channel Bridge, I-90 connects Bellevue to Mercer Island to the southwest. Issaquah is to the east, down I-90 at the south end of Lake Sammamish. The city is bordered to the west by many affluent suburbs such as Medina, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point and Yarrow Point. The south end of Bellevue is bordered by the city of Renton, and to the southeast, the relatively recently incorporated city of Newcastle.
Neighborhoods within Bellevue include Bellecrest, Bel-Red, Bridle Trails, Crossroads, Eastgate/Cougar Mountain, Enatai, Factoria, Lake Hills, Newport, Northeast Bellevue, Northwest Bellevue, Sammamish/East Bellevue, Somerset, Sunset, Tam o'shanter, West Bellevue, Wilburton, and Woodridge.
Like much of the Puget Sound lowland, Bellevue has a mild oceanic climate. It also has frequent rain showers from October to May, with precipitation levels typically being over 2 inches (51 mm). On average, the hottest month is July, while January is the coldest.
Bellevue is the main Eastside hub for both the local transit authority, King County Metro, and Sound Transit, the regional transit system. The Bellevue Transit Center, which serves both Metro and Sound buses, is located in the heart of the downtown business district and is connected to Interstate 405 by NE 6th St. and a direct-access Texas T HOV ramp. Local buses run into Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton, and the University District; regional buses go to Bothell, Lynnwood, Everett, Seattle, Renton, Kent and Auburn, among other cities.
The East Link light rail line is planned to run from Seattle through Mercer Island and Bellevue before ending in Redmond. It was approved by voters on November 4, 2008, as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. It began construction in 2015 and is scheduled to begin service in 2023.
I-405 as seen from the NE 8th Street Overpass
The Bellevue City Council lobbied hard for Sound Transit—a regional transit authority—to construct its light-rail line underground through Bellevue's rapidly growing downtown. Bellevue promised to devote between $104 million to $150 million toward a potential tunnel in the form of cash, services, free access to rights-of-way and one-time tax revenues that result from the East Link project. In November 2011, the council signed an agreement with Sound Transit. Tunnel construction started in early 2016 while the remainder of downtown Bellevue construction began in mid-2017. Former Bellevue City Council member Claudia Balducci is a member of the Sound Transit board of directors.
The City of Bellevue has undertaken an extensive "Bel-Red Area Transformation" process which seeks to plan some 900 acres (3.6 km2) in the Spring District in the city's northern portion, all of which is premised on the extension of light rail to the Eastside under Sound Transit 2. The top-down and highly integrated land use and transportation planning is similar to earlier planning for the Downtown.
Bellevue was also served by a railroad, a Burlington Northern branch line known as the Woodinville Subdivision, which included the historic Wilburton Trestle. This local freight line was the subject of debate over whether to railbank the line and construct a multi-purpose trail. As of March 2009, the Port of Seattle had to postpone its acquisition of the corridor because of instability in the bond market. As of 2016 the line is disused however part of the track bed at Wilburton Station will be reused by Sound Transit's light-rail construction.
The city once had an operating airfield named Bellevue Airfield.
Bellevue is home to Bellevue College.
The city hosts the Bellevue School District. There are four main public high schools – Bellevue High School, Interlake High School, Newport High School, and Sammamish High School – as well as two choice lottery high schools, International School and Big Picture School. Newsweek's 2015 ranking of U.S. public high schools placed Interlake at #359 and Newport at #391, with both schools noted for equitably helping low-income students meet average scores on standardized tests. Portions of Bellevue also lie within the boundaries of Lake Washington School District, Renton School District and Issaquah School District.
Bellevue is home to Open Window School, an independent school serving gifted students in kindergarten through eight grade. The Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle is located in Bellevue, serving students from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 8.
At the elementary level, Bellevue is home to several Montessori schools, the Eastside's only Waldorf education at Three Cedars School, as well as Bellevue Christian School.
The Seattle Japanese School, a Japanese weekend supplementary school, holds its classes in Bellevue.
Bellevue is an economic hub of the Seattle region's Eastside and home to the headquarters of various sizes, including the U.S. operations for many international firms. Since 2005, the city has become a hub for software engineering and other technology development centers. These include Expedia, PACCAR Inc, T-Mobile US, Eddie Bauer, SAP Concur, and Symetra. Bellevue hosts a number of satellite offices for large technology companies such as eBay, Oracle, Salesforce, Google, and Microsoft; Microsoft was at one point headquartered in Bellevue but has since moved to the neighboring community of Redmond, Washington. Celebrated video game companies Valve, Bungie, Sucker Punch Productions, and The Pokémon Company are also based here.
In 2019, Amazon and Facebook announced plans to open large engineering centers in Bellevue with plans to add several thousand employees. In 2018, Google also opened a major engineering facility in downtown Bellevue.
The city has numerous thriving commercial districts, with four major shopping centers: Bellevue Square in the downtown area, Factoria Mall to the south, Crossroads Mall to the east, and the Overlake Shopping District in the north.
Panorama of Bellevue, Washington
Bellevue is the site of the popular annual Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair (originally Pacific Northwest Arts and Crafts Fair), held since 1947 the last weekend in July. The biennial Bellevue Sculpture Exhibition draws thousands of visitors to the Downtown Park to view up to 46 three-dimensional artworks from artists around the country. In celebration of its strawberry farming history, Bellevue holds an annual Strawberry Festival on the fourth weekend in June at Crossroads Park. The festival initially began in 1925, and continued to 1942 when many Bellevue's strawberry farmers were incarcerated as part of the Japanese Internment. In 1987 the festival was resumed as a one evening event, and in 2003 it was expanded back to a multi-day festival.
The Bellevue Arts Museum first opened in 1975, then moved to Bellevue Square in 1983. In 2001, the museum moved into its own building, designed by Steven Holl. The museum subsequently ran into financial difficulties and was forced to close to the public in 2003. After a lengthy fundraising campaign, a remodel, and a new mission to become a national center for the fine art of craft and design, the museum reopened on June 18, 2005 with an exhibition of teapots. The Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art - now closed - contained one of the largest doll collections in the world—more than a thousand dolls—displayed on two floors of a Victorian-style building, which is now the site of the KidsQuest Children's Museum. Near Interstate 405 is Meydenbauer Center, a convention center that brings corporate meetings and charity events to the downtown area. Meydenbauer also includes a 410-seat theater which attracts operas, ballets, and orchestral performances.
The city government has planned to build a performing arts center, tentatively named the Tateuchi Center (named for philanthropist Ina Tateuchi), since the 1980s. It would include a 2,000-seat concert hall, offices, and creative spaces at a site in Downtown Bellevue. The $200 million project is partially funded with private donations and grants from the city and county governments.
Bellevue Arts Museum
Since the 1970s, the city has taken an active role in ensuring that its commercial development does not overwhelm its natural land and water resources. Today, the Bellevue Parks and Community Services Department manages more than 2,500 acres (10 km2) of parks and open spaces, including the Downtown Park and the Bellevue Botanical Garden, as well as several playgrounds, beach parks, and trails. More than 5,500 Bellevue residents participate in volunteer activities through this department annually.
Bellevue was home to the American Basketball Association team, the Bellevue Blackhawks. The Blackhawks in 2005, despite being ranked 13th in the league, made it to the championship game in front of 15,000 fans in Little Rock, Arkansas. The team has been inactive since 2006.
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