Brand-new Bellevue neighborhood: The Spring District

Thousands of people could eventually live and work in the Spring District of Bellevue.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Excavators are ready to demolish an old Safeway warehouse in Bellevue, just across Interstate 405 from downtown.

They are going to make room for five apartment buildings and two office towers. It's just the start of a $2.3 billion project called the Spring District.

The developer is Wright Runstad & Company, of Seattle. Its president, Greg Johnson, said, "We're embarking on a very serious investment in a city that we think has a huge amount going for it."

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It is a 36-acre site that will transform into 16 city blocks. There will be apartments within easy walking distance to shops and restaurants.

There will be parks, open spaces and even a hotel. A light rail station will get commuters quickly to and from work.

The Spring District has been modeled after the Pearl District, in Portland.

Johnson said, "In Portland, the blocks are very small, making it very walkable, narrow streets, with on-street parking. Those are the types of things that make a place feel like a neighborhood and feel safe."

The Spring District has been designed with local high-tech companies in mind. Developers want to make it easier for employees of Microsoft, Expedia and Google to live closer to where they work. Bellevue also sees more room for start-up companies in this rapidly expanding high-tech corridor.

The director of development services, Mike Brennan said, "New jobs, new residents, smart planning is certainly part of the new development planning for the city."

The first apartments should be ready to rent by 2015. The entire project could take 15 years to complete. It would eventually have 5 million square feet of housing, office and retail space.

Johnson said that's roughly half of the space Paul Allen's company, Vulcan, now controls at South Lake Union.