City of Bellevue
The City of Bellevue seeks a creative consultant to facilitate collective action and capacity building within a neighborhood of artists, creatives, and knowledge workers in BelRed, a designated arts district in Bellevue.
BelRed sits strategically at the intersection of I-405 and WA-520 – and benefits from the immediate access to the Eastside’s three core cities – Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond. The area was originally developed in the post-war era as a prime location for light industrial uses, warehouse spaces, and car repair facilities to service the Eastside’s growing population. As the area evolved with the rise of the information economy, many artists and creative firms found a home in the neighborhood’s emptying warehouse spaces. As a reflection of the area’s changing uses, and the need for more creative spaces, the city reimagined the neighborhood from a light industrial area into Bellevue’s innovation and arts district. A 2009 plan set a vision for a vibrant, mixed-use and transit-oriented neighborhood with a distinctive character based on arts and culture. The plan also calls for an arts district as a policy objective. The adopted policy and land use framework placed the City at the forefront of creating an arts district, but progress has been slow. In the ten years since adopting the BelRed Plan, the City has secured the construction of two light-rail stations at the heart of the community, but the idea of the arts district has only remained an idea. Now, the City wants to accelerate the pace of creative change and empower the community and other stakeholders to advance the arts district concept through partnership and collective action.
Anchored by the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) and the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and running parallel to future light rail, this former industrial district boasts more than 100 cultural resources. Most of these are practice space for dance and music, as well as small creative businesses offering musical instruments, art supplies, portraiture, architectural and interior design, and education in the arts. Recent development has welcomed to the neighborhood REI’s new headquarters, a major Facebook presence, GIX—an innovative technology-oriented partnership between UW and Tsinghua University of Beijing. This new development begs the question: How can BelRed’s creative community persist in the face of change and adapt to redevelopment? Additionally, while the neighborhood is currently home to 5,000 residents and 30,500 workers, it is projected to support a residential population of 10,000 and 44,000 workers by 2040. What will it take to position BelRed’s creative sector as a central figure to part of this growth, ensuring existing artists and creative businesses both benefit from future investment and attract new artists and creative businesses to the neighborhood?
The opportunity is for a creative consultant to turn the idea of an arts district into action. The goal of this project is to identify and realize opportunities to integrate BelRed’s creative community into a model of sustainable neighborhood development. At the heart of this effort is establishing the vital linkage between art, culture and economic systems: where cultural heritage becomes the framework for community development and a tool for decision making, planning, and investments. With an eye toward action, the consultant will work with the community to establish a common vision, clear goals, and consensus on projects that develop a unique and authentic identity, strengthen local networks, and build real capacity among participants. An effective strategy must encourage investment in human and financial resources to prepare artists and creative firms to meet the challenges of the rapidly developing neighborhood. At the same time, the strategy must also recognize creativity and culture as a reliable source of sustainable income and employment. By the end of the year, the consultant will have created an arts district governance group such as a task force, a three to five-year action plan, a list of potential partners and funding sources, and a proposal for a demonstration project to be carried out by the governance group, the consultant, or both, and funded through additional resources.
The City of Bellevue Arts Program will partner with the Economic Development Program to host a creative consultant. The Arts Program brings local creative and cultural neighborhood contacts, expertise in artist-led placemaking projects and the creative economy, and capacity building resources for artists and nonprofits. The Economic Development Program brings business networks, expertise in public-private partnerships and small business development, and incubator programs for startups.
We will host a creative consultant for one year. The long-term nature of this project is important because it offers time to meaningfully investigate the central questions guiding the project, as well as time to network with and engage BelRed’s creative community in the co-creation of a community-based arts district implementation plan.