Also, Council briefed on climate change
Even though Bellevue's economy has remained strong in recent months as the national economy has declined, the city is showing some signs of a slowdown.
Bob Derrick, director of the city's Office of Economic Development, told the City Council Monday that housing prices and sales have slipped, retail sales have slowed and fewer commercial development projects are in the permit pipeline.
Nevertheless, the expectation is the city's economy will be growing again by late 2008 or early 2009, Derrick said.
Bellevue has experienced unprecedented growth and development during the past five years. This growth followed one of the city's worst economic periods between 2000 and 2002, when office vacancy rates soared to about 25 percent.
Those rates are now down to about 6 percent, due largely to the rapid expansion of Microsoft into the Bellevue office market.
According to Derrick, the city's economy was "supercharged" in 2007. In all,
- Construction began on 3 million square feet of office space;
- More than 4,000 residential units, mostly in the downtown area, were either under construction or in permit review;
- An estimated 1.5 million square feet of retail space was either under construction or in development; and
- About 1,000 hotel rooms were under construction or development.
Council members were told that in coming months, the Office of Economic Development will focus on several key areas, including retention and expansion of small businesses; revitalization of neighborhood commercial areas, international trade and marketing and promotion.
Council briefed on climate change
Climate change will potentially have far-reaching impacts in the Puget Sound region, including changes to water quality and supply, increased flood risks, more variability in weather patterns and changes to the state's forest and timber economies.
Those were some of the messages delivered Monday to the Council by Dr. Philip Mote, a research scientist with the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington. Mote is the Washington State Climatologist, and offers expert information about the climate and weather to state and local decision makers.
Mote recommends that local governments take potential climate change impacts into account in their decision-making processes to be better prepared and more resilient.
Mote's presentation was designed to provide council members with background in preparation for upcoming staff briefings in coming weeks on what actions the city is taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Bellevue has embarked on an environmental stewardship initiative, which includes an effort to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions. Those efforts have included:
- Conducting a citywide tree canopy study to guide the preservation and enhancement of the city's tree canopy;
- Conducting a greenhouse gas emissions inventory in 2007 following adoption by the City Council of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. That inventory is being use to identify emissions reductions opportunities.
- Expanding recycling efforts in city parks.
For more information about Bellevue's environmental stewardship activities, contact Sheida Sahandy.
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