The final pieces of an almost 30-acre master-planned community that began construction nearly 10 years ago in Redmond are nearing completion, with work wrapping up on the last of 2,600 apartments and a community park.
The Esterra Park development includes the apartments, 245,000 square feet of office space leased to Microsoft, a 282-room dual branded Aloft/Element hotel by Marriott, and 3-acre park that is privately owned but will be open to the public when it’s completed in September. That’s also when the final 291 apartments will be finished.
In aggregate, the Esterra projects total about 2.8 million square feet and $1.3 billion. Esterra, adjacent to State Route 520 and east of 152th Avenue Northeast, abuts Microsoft’s sprawling main campus and is a short walk to Sound Transit’s Overlake Village Station on the East Link light rail line opening to riders next year or early 2024.
Capstone Partners, with offices in Seattle and Portland, set the Esterra Park development in motion in 2013 with the purchase of 28 acres from Group Health Cooperative. Group Health in 2009 hired Capstone to formulate a master plan for the site with the City of Redmond, after which Capstone spent three years envisioning the development, according to Mike Hubbard, a Capstone principal. Capstone, with an investment partner, then bought the parcel for $32.5 million, according to published reports at the time.
Capstone razed the hospital, built roads and infrastructure, and sold off lots to other developers. Capstone developed part of the property itself, including the Microsoft building that is carbon neutral, the 636-unit Verde at Esterra Park apartments now being completed, and it's building the park. Verde will include a public restaurant facing the park with features that include an outdoor pizza oven to serve park users. Other developers built five separate apartment communities at Esterra Park totaling about 2,000 units.
Microsoft’s office, for which Capstone built the core and shell, is its only building in Esterra Park. Microsoft designed and built out the One Esterra building’s space as a modern team-based workplace to support hybrid work, creativity, and collaboration, according to a Microsoft spokesperson. The building opened for employee use in March.
The 345-unit first phase of Verde opened earlier this year and is 64 percent leased. Its proximity to major tech employers and transportation have drawn renters looking to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle and reduce their carbon footprint, according to Verde representatives. The final phase of 291 units will begin preleasing soon.
Verde is one of the most sustainably designed apartment properties tapping the eco-living movement, according to its developers, and will seek LEED Zero Carbon certification for carbon-neutral operations. Features include no fossil fuels in the all-electric building, 105 vehicle-charging stations, and recycled lumber from the original site uses in ceilings, stairs, and benches.
A key feature is an interior market to minimize drives to the store. Among myriad items are milk, cereal, pasta sauce, snacks, pharmacy items, dog and cat treats, dishwashing detergent, and more. The store will soon include baked goods from a local vendor, and items from other local makers.
“Having the market is probably the biggest game changer and probably one of the largest ways that we reduce the carbon footprint,” said Sidney Mitchell, community manager at Verde. “Nobody has to drive anywhere.”
To encourage residents to reduce consumption by renting rather than buying items of everyday use, Verde offers Brevvie (Briefly Rent Everything) kiosks where residents can rent vacuums, steam irons, tools, tents, ladders, step stools, camp chairs, a karaoke machine, and more, to alleviate the need to buy and store such items that may be infrequently used. A separate publicly accessible Brevvie kiosk will be located on Verde’s patio facing the park and contain park-related items for rent, including lawn chairs and lawn games.
Mike Hubbard, principal of Capstone, said future-proofing the building by using clean energy was key.
“We can’t go so far as to remove the footprint of the building, but we can sure do a whole lot to operate the building in a carbon-neutral way,” he said. “A cornerstone of that starts with getting rid of the fossil fuels.”
Additionally, Capstone and Verde’s management company, Greystar, can say, “Here’s what we’ve done in the building … and here’s what you can do as a resident if you want to take this further,” Hubbard said, noting the store, rentals, charging stations, and more.
“We really ultimately wanted to provide a roadmap for somebody to cut their footprint in half if they so chose,” he added.
LEED Zero Carbon will measure the building’s performance over successive 12-month periods. Verde’s environmental recipe is a combination of construction choices, operational decisions, green power, and carbon offsets. This combination will allow the building to achieve LEED Zero Carbon long before the 2030 Washington State green power mandates take effect, according to information provided on the project.
Other green features of Verde shared by Capstone:
- 67,000 tons of its materials were recycled from the previous site, and about 33,000 trees, bushes, and plants were planted offsite in Redmond and Bellevue to compensate for tree removal accommodating the new construction.
- It uses heat pumps and other innovations to deliver heating, cooling, and ventilation without natural gas. All water heaters, cooking equipment, washers, and driers are electric.
- To capture real data and educate residents, Capstone partnered with Seattle’s O’Brien 360 for modeling and building benchmarking that will be shared with residents through digital monitors in the lobby to educate residents on how carbon footprint is created and suggest behaviors and consumer choices that can help residents reduce their own carbon footprint.
- The building has almost five times the number of government-required electric car charging stations to promote electric vehicles, and bike stalls outnumber Verde parking stalls. Residents will be encouraged to evaluate air travel impacts; either eliminating unneeded trips or purchasing carbon offsets through apps.
- Verde residents will be educated about carbon friendly and unfriendly food. A Saturday Market will bring local farm goods to Verde’s doorstep.
- Esterra Park will provide a healthy outdoor amenity and feature regular events, concerts and programming, plus free Wi-Fi. It’s also one of the region’s largest Privately-Owned, Public Open Space (POPOS) parks. It features an amphitheater and public artwork.
Hubbard said the vision for the overall Esterra development worked better than anticipated when Capstone first started studying the site in 2009.
“We always sort of envisioned it as a place where you could live, work, play, and stay — and we didn't really know what that meant,” he said. “We didn't really know what the mix was going to be. It could have been up to half office, and, back in 2009, half office seemed like the easier bet than half residential. As it all boiled out, residential took off because the job growth in the Pacific Northwest has taken off. We knew sort of what we hoped it would become back then, but we certainly didn't see it all the way to where it is today. It's gone far better than we ever could have expected.”
Esterra also includes a 261-unit community, Capella, that’s entirely affordable housing and is a collaboration between the City of Redmond, Imagine Housing, Inland Group, ARCH and YMCA. While code calls for the other communities in Esterra Park to have 10 percent workforce housing for people at 80 percent of area median income, Verde’s workforce housing units are for people earning 60 percent of AMI or less. Capella is open to renters across a range of percentages of AMI.
“As you think about the things that we are trying to tackle in our communities, it's affordable housing, it's outdoor space, it's carbon neutrality, it's all those things that create a sense of community, and I think that we've been very, very lucky to get all those elements to sort of land in the same spot,” Hubbard said.