Esterra Park

Esterra Park

First Urban Park in Overlake Set to Open, Completing this neighborhood

“The park situated by Verde Esterra is incredible. It really brings the whole community together, as well as creates such a great vibe, especially when the sun is out,” said Mia van Wyk, a resident of Esterra Park.

Set for completion this summer, the Esterra Park development boasts 2,600 residential units, two hotels with 283 rooms combined, 25,000 square feet of retail, 250,000 square feet of office space, and a 2.67-acre park, all situated in Overlake. The master plan development began in 2009 and is part of Overlake becoming an urban center that promotes density, walkability, mixed-use facilities, and a transit-supported urban environment. Access to Esterra Park will continue to increase with the arrival of light rail nearby in the coming years. 

"This will be the model of a complete neighborhood, where you can walk or bike to places that provide you access to with all of your daily needs."

- Carol Helland, Redmond Planning and Community Development Director

Building For All Through Partnerships

The community, which offers market rate and affordable housing options, was made possible through partnerships, beginning with Group Health, who sold the property in 2009 to Capstone Partners to initiate the project. Since then, numerous partners have been involved to make the vision a reality, explained Helland, including Inland Group, Imagine Housing, Redmond’s City Council, past and present city leadership, and Redmond city staff.

“Without the strong commitment to the vision that was developed in 2009, we wouldn't have had such a great project that we do today,” said Helland. “I'm really looking forward to seeing when it's all complete how this project just hums along and creates a real asset for the Redmond community.”

Residents who have moved into Esterra Park are appreciative of the approach taken. 

“Real thought and effort have gone into the whole design and layout and the feeling you get is one of ‘home," said van Wyk. "I love the contemporary aesthetic, with all the little attention to detail from art to the use of light, as it all contributes to the collective.”

Inland Group joined the project in 2019 to help finish up the design, increase the number of affordable units, and then started construction of Capella at Esterra Park, explained John Fisher, a developer with Inland Group. 

Capella offers varying levels of affordable housing and has numerous amenities on site, similar to a market rate building, including a business center and fitness room, along with amenities geared to families with children, such as a game room, play equipment, and an all-purpose room for kids. The building also houses a YMCA early learning center. 

"The YMCA is open to anyone, not just residents at Capella."

- John Fisher, Inland Group Developer

“Having high-quality early childhood education and childcare there in the community of Esterra Park, along with the live-work model I think is super beneficial to families moving in there.”

Affordable housing requires specialized tax incentives and contributions from various government agencies to make it work, said Mike Hubbard, principal at Capstone Partners, the master developer for the project. 

“Capella was developed through the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, which is a low-income housing tax credit program, and it provided the majority of the capital needed,” said Fisher. “Tax-exempt bonds, a lender for the tax-exempt bonds, ARCH, and the City of Redmond helped provide the additional funding.”

To meet the goal of housing stability for residents who may be moving into affordable housing from a difficult situation, onsite social services are provided to residents at Capella through Imagine Housing. These services include a range of support, such as life skills, community building, access to income-qualifying financial benefits, employment, and more. 

“The biggest benefit to affordable housing at Esterra Park is being part of a community that is very well planned and a great location,” said Fisher. “I think having affordable housing integrated into a larger community, a true mixed-income community, is just beneficial for society, and that certainly is there at Esterra Park.”

The Park

A beautiful 2.67-acre park is scheduled to open this summer, which was created thanks to several of the development buildings that agreed to create a community park, in partnership with the City, to be used by everyone. 

In addition to serving as a park for the Overlake neighborhood, there are a variety of ideas on how the park could be activated including markets, concerts or movies in the park, and possibly an extension of Redmond Lights, to name a few. 

"The City requested for it to be similar to our other urban park, Downtown Redmond Park, so that it could host events."

- Caroline Chapman, Redmond Parks Planning Manager

Redmond’s Parks and Recreation Director Loreen Hamilton echoed Chapman and shared that feedback collected by the development about the park was inclusive of recommendations from the Parks, Trails, and Recreation Commission, as well as the City’s Parks, Arts, Recreation, Culture, and Conservation (PARCC) Plan

“Esterra Park fills a huge need for us,” explained Hamilton. “The Overlake area is one of our park deserts due to the lack of affordable land for park and open space. It reflects the needs that we see within our PARCC Plan and master planning documents within the City to create accessible parks and open space in Overlake.”

The Parks and Recreation Department will continue to have conversations about how the space can be programmed while also balancing the need for it to serve the purpose of a park.

“Urban parks fill multiple needs,” said Hamilton. “They can be used for events, gathering spaces and concerts; but also create open space for people to walk their dogs, play with their kids, or just be outside. It is vital that we partner in creative ways with developers, businesses, and other organizations to create spaces, not vacated parking lots, for people to recreate in our densely populated urban centers.”

In alignment with the vision for the park to be a place for all, it is fully accessible. To accommodate for the slope that the park was built on, the team installed an elevator into Verde that exits people outside the building, and then all the pathways are fully accessible for people to walk or roll.

"Esterra Park is the first major privately-owned public space, and it is serving as a guide for us to create what standards we have in place for how those are signed and operated, communicated about, and the permit systems they live within."

- Loreen Hamilton, Redmond Parks and Recreation Director

With the park’s completion slated for this summer, restaurant operator Black Bottle opened Jack Spratt in Verde last month, and Capstone’s construction team is building a second space for Black Bottle in the park that is expected to be completed in early August.

Building Sustainably

Sustainability has been incorporated intentionally throughout the project since its inception. To this end, Capstone sold land to other partners for various projects, including apartment sites to AvalonBay Communities, as well as Lincoln Properties, Ledcor, and the hotel site to CSM Corporation, and each of these projects were developed to various LEED standards.

“One Esterra (office) and the adjacent Verde (apartments) are the largest combined carbon-neutral projects in the Pacific Northwest and in the top 10 in the U.S.,” said Hubbard. “I’m proud that we took steps early to get it right.”

One Esterra and Verde were committed to sustainability both during construction and in operations.  

"Both projects are seeking LEED Zero Carbon. You have to get rid of the fossil fuel utilization in your building, and that means all your mechanical systems - everything for heating and cooling - all has to change." 

- Mike Hubbard, Capstone Partners Principal

These design choices make the project more expensive and less efficient, he explained. However, both projects will exceed the Washington state greenhouse gas standards established for 2030. 

“In the case of Verde, the whole building is purchasing green power,” said Hubbard.  

Traditional fireplaces were replaced with vapor, and the commercial kitchen in the building was outfitted with all electric cooking equipment for Verde’s restaurant tenant Jack Spratt. Still some natural gas remains.

“We couldn't find a good barbecue that works on electricity, so we have natural gas grills, and to do that, we had to buy carbon offsets,” Hubbard explained. 

The project purchases wind and solar carbon offsets to mitigate the natural gas.

“Our engineering team collects numbers every month, and we look at this over a three-year span to figure out whether or not we're actually doing what we say we're doing,” said Hubbard. “That's what it's going to take to get to LEED Zero Carbon; a look back at how you've executed the operations of the building.”

Capella was constructed to Evergreen Sustainable Design Standards, meaning it's not only energy efficient, but construction also focused on healthy interior air quality and other features.

“Things like no volatile organic compound product throughout increase the health of the community to higher efficiency HVAC systems,” said Fisher. “There's solar incorporated into the project, green roofs, Energy Star appliances, and more.”

It’s not just in the buildings, but also the open spaces that enhance the development. 

"The park is on a big hill, and so some of the less usable space has been planted with a wildflower native pollinator mix, so it will look really nice and then also have that support for the birds and the bees."

- Caroline Chapman

Hamilton added, “Those types of plantings also are lower maintenance, so when you're maintaining less, you’re watering less, and you’re using less gas operated tools to maintain, like leaf blowers.”

The project team worked diligently to determine the best course of action with more than 1,000 significant trees initially on the site. After a year of evaluating the options, a plan was developed to mitigate the trees. 

“We planted 33,000 trees, bushes, and shrubs all over the City of Redmond, and we maintained those for three years to make sure that they really took,” said Hubbard. “We didn't like having to cut down trees, but we sure like what we left behind within the City with everything that we planted.”

In addition to the plantings, a lot of the lumber from the trees was used in the construction of Verde, such as in the floorings and eaves, as well as in the park, explained Hubbard.

Building Community

A local business, 151 Days Chicken Soup House, is appreciative of being part of the Esterra Park community. The restaurant opened nearly two years ago and chose the space due to its location, and proximity to nearby Microsoft, said owner Joseph Guo.

"For us, it’s really important to have a business in a community where people can trust us and relate to the natural ingredients that we present. With the summer coming, it’s really important to engage with the community, and we plan to have exciting menu changes coming soon."

- Joseph Guo, 151 Days Chicken Soup House Owner

With the vision of creating a welcoming place for all, that is aligned with being good stewards of the environment and planning for Redmond’s continued growth, Esterra Park is a distinctive neighborhood and anticipated to be a place for the community to thrive.

“To see it all come to fruition the way that it has - to see the park get finished, to have the restaurant that will be housed in the kiosk serve pizza, and to have a band playing in the amphitheater in the summertime - that I am certain that will be very satisfying,” said Hubbard. “It's an exceptional project, and I think it's going to exceed everybody's expectations.”

"The biggest benefit of Esterra Park for our community is that you can live in a place that you have work nearby - like Microsoft campus and robust other businesses in the Overlake area, you can have friends come and stay - there's a hotel there, you can play there - the park is beautiful, and you'll have transit access when light rail opens. It's going to be one of the jewels of the complete and equitable neighborhoods that is in Redmond for the future."

- Carol Helland