A local bright spot in an otherwise challenging 2020 was the launch of our new, innovative community development organization that is taking a long-term approach toward developing the Eastside into a regional hub for arts and culture. Thanks to the work of a group of passionate community supporters, EastHUB, a new, Bellevue-based nonprofit, began operations in July. Despite 2020’s formidable headwinds (Covid-19, the industry-wide decimation of the culture industry), EastHUB is quickly establishing itself as a local catalyst for community development, and has big plans for 2021.
EastHUB was created to seize an opportunity created by a set of circumstances unique right now to Bellevue and the Eastside:
- The Eastside is in dire need of high-quality community-gathering and workable, accessible cultural spaces
- Scores of arts and cultural affinity groups exist on the Eastside, and many have been priced out of their spaces due to the torrid real estate climate
- Dozens of major developments in Bellevue and throughout the Eastside are currently under construction or in the pipeline to break ground soon
- The Eastside’s population is rapidly growing, and there is a pressing need for new cultural gathering spaces to keep pace with that growth
Adding to these circumstances, EastHUB will consider the new conditions that exist now; A decline of in-person retail shopping is challenging developers with excess space in their new mixed-use projects that they need to fill with drivers of traffic and public engagement. The City of Bellevue and surrounding municipal governments have a strong interest in creating active downtown cores for their citizens, and have put into place generous incentives for developers to include cultural spaces and our region’s major corporate citizens have a vested interest in making the Eastside an attractive and rewarding place to live and work.
Microsoft, a key early EastHUB supporter, recently summed up the opportunity for EastHUB:
“The vibrant diversity of our region fuels innovation at Microsoft and artistic creativity throughout King County’s eastside,” said Jane Broom, Senior Director, Microsoft Philanthropies. “EastHUB is committed to building arts infrastructure through immersive technology, creating shared experiences, new perspectives and strong cross-cultural connections in our community.”
By partnering with developers, regional governments, arts and cultural groups, businesses, and residents EastHUB is working to build and operate a network of tech-infused, flexible arts and cultural spaces for our entire community. The initial goal is to develop more than a dozen new spaces within the next 5-7 years, including: Theaters, Dance/Music Studios, Recital Halls, Live Music Venues, Exhibition/Installation Spaces and Cross-Cultural Gathering Spaces.
EastHUB Board member Bonnie Towne, who also serves as the Board Chair of Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, says there’s a simple rationale for the large scope of work for the new entity:
“Major cities of the size and prominence of Bellevue need to think in terms of a Cultural District, rather than a single facility. I think of EastHUB as the “WeWork” concept, but applied to arts and culture. It will provide flexible spaces and resources to support the arts groups and cultural organizations in our region.”
EastHUB can integrate cultural spaces in construction projects that are already planned or being built, with a process that is FASTER, CHEAPER, and MORE EFFICIENT than the traditional model for capital projects. This is due to the fact that we won’t have to spend all the time and money associated with site-clearing, utilities, parking garages, foundations, building systems, etc.
EastHUB’s unique approach includes these five steps:
Step 1: Work with local governments to highlight and enhance existing incentives for the inclusion of cultural spaces within new construction projects
Step 2: Partner with developers on the donation of raw, unfinished space in the lower floors of new mixed-use construction projects
Step 3: Engage with regional arts organizations, cultural affinity groups, and other potential users to find out what types of spaces they want
Step 4: Raise the money to outfit the spaces in accordance with input from the community
Step 5: Operate the finished spaces as part of a comprehensive cultural infrastructure resulting in cost savings and greater efficiency overall.
CEO Ray Cullom, an experienced arts-leader and veteran of multiple cultural development project in the USA and around the world, says the key to EastHUB’s success will be the comprehensive, sustained community engagement initiative that will kick off in early 2021.
“Rather than dictate to the community the type of cultural facilities we are going to build for them, we will begin by engaging with and asking all sectors of our brilliantly diverse community what kind of spaces they want” -Ray Cullom
EastHUB will roar into 2021 with work on our first major cultural space development project, a 1000-capacity flexible-use Playhouse/Music Hall in the heart of downtown Bellevue. The new facility will be constructed with ultimate flexibility in mind, and the capacity to quickly change configuration to a wide variety of performance and seating layouts. This project comes courtesy of a partnership with Stanford Hotels President, Lawrence Lui, the developer behind CLOUDVUE, a major mixed-use project on the corner of 110th Ave and 8th Street, abutting the new 600 Amazon Building and adjacent to the new Light Rail station.
“The CLOUDVUE team, led by its president Lawrence Lui, understands the direct beneficial connection between strong arts and culture infrastructure, and vibrant and activated communities. The CLOUDVUE mixed-use project, combining office, residential, hotel and retail, gives us the opportunity to prominently showcase this commitment, and we are delighted to partner with EastHUB to further this long-term community vision by constructing a free-standing performance venue. EastHUB, led by CEO Ray Cullom, brings an incredible amount of top professional experience in the development of innovative new cultural spaces, and with its deep roots in the area has already led to a groundswell of support in the Bellevue community" -CLOUDVUE Development Statement
EastHUB is also engaged in talks with the City of Bellevue about a cultural partnership, with EastHUB taking on a role in the City’s cultural activities, including acting as a resource for information about all cultural activities occurring in and around the City.
“Bellevue and the Eastside have a wealth of artists, arts and cultural organizations, and a large and highly engaged arts audience that are all set to take that next leap towards a more visible and sustainable arts ecosystem. We see and have heard that there is a huge need for additional arts and cultural facilities that add to the diversity of existing and planned arts and cultural spaces…The fact that EastHUB and other arts organizations are focusing on affordability and access solutions bodes well for Bellevue’s creative future"-Scott McDonald, City of Bellevue Arts Community Manager.
Over the coming years, EastHUB will identify more spaces for the network of cross-cultural gathering spaces, and will engage with our brilliantly multicultural communities to imagine the expansion of our region’s thriving and lively cultural ecosystem.