Plus, public safety pledge status and $1 million donation to human services
On Tuesday, the City Council returned from the August recess and received an update on Bellevue’s economic development efforts, including a recent announcement that Amazon would be leasing another 2 million square feet of office space in Downtown and adding 10,000 more jobs in the coming years. Highlights also included the ongoing work done to respond to COVID-19 impacts in the local business community.
The report included feedback from local business surveys conducted by the Bellevue Downtown Association. Results revealed many firms do not plan to return to office space in large numbers for another three to six months, and indicated overall uncertainty with future plans. 32 percent of businesses surveyed said COVID-19 is expected to impact their future office space needs, 41 percent said it would not, and 27 percent weren’t sure. Currently 96 percent of office space in Downtown is occupied.
In other COVID-19 relief updates, more than 4,000 businesses in Bellevue have received Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loans to help offset financial impacts due to COVID-19. More than 100 businesses in Bellevue got help from Business Impact Northwest with technical assistance to navigate assistance programs. More than 200 businesses have applied for Bellevue’s business relief grants to-date. Applications close September 17. More updates on these efforts and business trends will be presented in the next update slated for November.
Public art installation approved
Councilmembers later voted to formally commission a large public art piece that will be situated at the northeast corner of Downtown Park, where construction has already begun on the new park entranceway. The project is a key element of the Downtown Park master plan and the Grand Connection.
In February, the council held a study session to review the artwork, which is a large, signature structure that will serve as a key, visible gateway into Downtown Park from the downtown area. It will offer opportunity for seating underneath the structure and is intended to create a unique gathering place for the community.
The council voted 6-1 to approve continuing with the work. Councilmember Conrad Lee voted no, citing the uncertain times as the city responds to COVID-19. In the discussion, other councilmembers noted that delaying installation would create an unfinished key entrance to the park and the project is already funded. The final design concept was approved in 2019.
Public safety pledge update
Earlier City Manager Brad Miyake updated the council on the latest work around the public safety pledge the council agreed to in June. Bellevue has formally selected an independent, third-party review group, the Office of Independent Review (OIR). The firm has decades of experience in evaluating police operations and public reform.
With the selection, the city is ready to move into the review and engagement phase of the pledge, which includes an examination of public safety practices, public engagement, and a report on findings.The city will use virtual platforms to begin the engagement process with the community beginning as early as this month.
$1 million donation to human services
The City Manager’s report also included an appearance by an Amazon representative who discussed the recent announcements that the company will be adding 10,000 more jobs to Bellevue in the coming years and would donate $1 million to Bellevue’s Human Services Fund over the next four years.
“We look forward to long and productive partnership with the city of Bellevue,” said Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman. “Amazon is so proud to be growing in Bellevue. Our founder Jeff Bezos started the company in a garage right here in Bellevue.”
Amazon currently has more than 55,000 employees across the region including more than 3,000 in Bellevue. The addition of 10,000 jobs in Bellevue comes on the heels of an announcement in February that the company would add another 15,000 jobs in the area over the next three to five years.