- Vacancy rate: 7.2%
- Recent homes added: 1,074
- Projected annual growth rate (2015-2020): 1.48%
- Arts-related businesses: 111
- WalkScore (out of 100): 38
4. Bellevue, WA
While other cities were feeling the crunch of an economic downturn in 2008, Downtown Bellevue, Wash. was experiencing rapid growth and dynamic change. Several high-rises were constructed, creating more places for residents to live, work and play. Nearly 12,000 people live in Downtown Bellevue, and city planners estimate that over the next 20 years most of Bellevue’s growth will occur in downtown. Its projected growth is the highest among the cities we picked as the Best Downtowns in 2016.
Covering 400 acres of the city, Downtown Bellevue includes 4.5 million square feet of retail and entertainment space and more than 9 million square feet of office space. Vacant or new homes and offices don’t stay on the market for long, yet prices allow more than half of the population to own or rent a home for no more than 30 percent of their annual incomes, a sign that Bellevue offers affordability.
While The Bellevue Collection and The Shops at The Bravern provide premier shopping experiences, the downtown area offers a mix of sophistication, artistic energy and grit. More than 170 places to eat in Downtown Bellevue range from food trucks and sidewalk bistros to pastry shops and brewing companies. When you think of 24-hour restaurants it’s unlikely you’d have 13 Coins in mind. On the opposite end of a greasy diner, 13 Coins provides engaging line chefs who playfully banter with guests while creating exquisitely satisfying dishes like calamari steak supreme, chicken piccata and hazelnut cappelletti. Facing East is a popular Taiwanese restaurant in the heart of downtown, delighting diners with items such as pork burgers, pumpkin with salty egg and soy-flavored chicken.
Finding things to do in Bellevue is never hard. A true showpiece in Downtown Bellevue, the recently renovated Maydenbauer Center hosts a variety of conferences and events each year, including performances in its theater. The Bellevue Arts Museum celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2016, and continues to inspire visitors with exhibits showcasing the Pacific Northwest’s most talented artists. Coming soon is the Tateuchi Center, which will include a 2,000-seat concert hall, black box theater and exhibit space.
When it comes to shopping in Downtown Bellevue nearly every retail option is covered, from children’s clothing stores like Wee Tots to fine art at Ming’s Zen Gallery. Bellevue Square remains the go-to destination for high-end brands, like Nordstrom, Vince and Anthropologie.