Photo of Holden of Bellevue
Photo of Holden of Bellevue
Photo of Holden of Bellevue
Photo of Holden of Bellevue
Photo of Holden of Bellevue

Holden of Bellevue

Bringing Senior Living Back to the City

Bellevue, Washington, is remaking its identity from suburban and car-centric to dense and pedestrian-oriented, a shift that includes emphasizing light rail transit and walkability for people of all abilities and ages. More broadly, a growing trend in senior community design brings senior living back into urban centers from the suburbs while adding public programming to planning that, until recently, was exclusively private. Our design for Holden of Bellevue focuses squarely on these priorities. Built for seniors who need memory care or assisted living, yet want ready access to downtown Bellevue’s amenities, Holden sits one block from Bellevue’s upcoming East Main light-rail station. Its contemporary design language, active street-facing retail, and pedestrian pass-through breaking up the site’s original superblock plan contributes to the neighborhood’s street life, as does its location, easily reached by families who live and work in Bellevue. Inside, our interior design program highlights community building through accessibility: Luxurious, hospitality-influenced amenities prompt seniors to get together outside their individual residences for shared mealtimes, social events, and fitness. Holden is designed to cultivate all that downtown Bellevue can and will offer.

Bellevue, Washington
  • 136
  • 7 stories
  • 132,000 sq. ft.

Senior Communities


Architecture , Interiors


Senior Living


Architecture: JP Emery

Interiors: Alissa Brandt

Architecture Story

Community Life

Not only does Holden bring senior community living from the suburbs into the city, it exemplifies infill development. Where the site was once a low-rise, low-density medical building, Holden will be a seven-story, 136-key residential complex with a real presence. A critical part of our development began with a new pedestrian connection, running through the site’s long city block. Before, it wasn’t possible to quickly walk from one side of this sprawling block to the other. But with Bellevue including through-blocks for pedestrians in their downtown zoning code, our design for Holden halves the superblock to a more walkable scale, places its parking and main entry in an internal lot, and lays the framework for future urban development. Moreover, while Bellevue’s zoning code requires public retail space, the program for Holden prioritizes private amenity spaces. To meet both needs, our design creates a dual-purpose space in the front—the salon and bistro, both along the public-facing street—that are open to the public during the day and transitions for seniors’ private use in the evening. With Holden’s ground level sitting slightly above the street level, prioritizing zero-threshold accessibility, we’ve designed a sort of front-porch experience for residents, who can watch their street from a position of shelter and comfort. Physically, the C-shaped Holden is designed around a classically inspired tripartite arrangement. Its base, middle, and top sections express grandeur and overall balance, clad primarily in fiber-cement paneling with a cedar soffit at the pick-up and drop-off area adding material warmth. By orienting as many units as possible to the street front and designing a courtyard amenity, our design maximizes access to daylight and provides unobstructed views. Inside, Holden’s residential units are minimally appointed, meant to anticipate a full dining and activity program and encouraging residents to spend as much time as possible together in their shared amenity and communal spaces. This is senior living as true community, connecting residents to each other, to their families, and to their city.


Interior Story

Luxury and Connection

Community—its creation; its growth—is a tremendously important aspect of our design for Holden of Bellevue. Thus our design, both for memory care and assisted living, prioritizes social gatherings. Each residential unit is relatively small, whereas Holden’s shared amenities are physically, thematically, and programmatically central. Among the most visible aspects of this community-first programming is Holden’s dining spaces. Mealtime is an essential social anchor in people’s lives, no less so for Holden’s residents. For assisted-living meals, we designed an open-plan dining room divided into two halves separated by a partial-height wall and patterned metal screens above. On one side, we placed a two-sided gas fireplace; on the other, an open kitchen with a large, pass-through window. Both halves offer two separate but related dining experiences. Our calming memory-care amenity space, too, is open and centrally located. The living room opens to dining and an intimate kitchen, designed to resemble a residential kitchen, that leads to another activity space. A covered courtyard gives Holden’s memory-care residents year-round access to the outside. Luxury is equally important to our interior design; inspired by our experience in the hospitality sector, Holden feels luxuriously rich from the moment you enter. At the main entry stands a soothing water feature of the sort not out of place at a high-end hotel. A floor-to-ceiling feature wall in the front vestibule showcases a vividly abstract graphic, creating a dramatic, artistic first impression of the building’s interior. Even the front desk is gorgeously appointed, with a full-height chevron backdrop of limestone tile, gold decorative pendants, and a linear wood ceiling. Farther inside, the living room opens to the main lobby, bringing a soft, more residential feeling to this lounge space. The aforementioned two-sided gas fireplace, clad in an onyx-look tile, is shared with the equally luxurious dining room. Our material palette is richly textured throughout, with deep, moody finishes, walnut-finished wood, jewel tones, and organic patterns punctuated with gold elements in the lighting and decorative screens. Stretched fabric acoustical ceilings reduce echoes and background noise, adding to Holden’s sense of comfort and calm. And of course our design includes amenities for residents’ wellness, with a big fitness room for yoga and chair exercises. When necessary, this opens to the adjacent activity room for large-group activities. We use color intentionally throughout Holden. In the memory care areas, light and neutral colors comfort and soothe residents. Assisted living is livelier, with punches of color and jewel tones. Since the bistro and salon serve both senior residents and the general public, we designed them with a more contemporary feel: Sparkling gold, metallic lighting, and plenty of seating. These floor-to-ceiling storefronts are very much modern retail spaces, with large windows and an oversized steel canopy out front. Clean lines and bright accent colors unequivocally distinguish Holden from less bold senior communities. This building is anything but beige. Finally, we chose the native Pacific madrone tree for Holden’s hero image for two reasons. First, because it’s planted all over the city of Bellevue. And second, because its symbolism with the area’s First Nations includes refuge and healing. Trees, like communities to people of all ages, are life.