December 15, 2008
Human services campus needs community input
As the year draws to an end, the rush is on for an agreement between the city of Issaquah, Port Blakely for Issaquah Highlands and the owners of Park Pointe property on Tiger Mountain.
The land trade between the parties is fraught with problems, the kind that usually get worked out in a year or two, not a month or two. Everything from streets and public utilities to design footprints on new buildings are being penciled in for clarity of future intent.
One of the most exciting components of the land swap would be a future human services campus, to be located in the highlands near retail stores and multifamily housing.
Not surprisingly, it’s also a component that is already raising a few eyebrows. Is Issaquah Highlands the right place to offer counseling, case management, dental and health care, job placement and other services to low-income families — given that the highlands is more of a high-brow kind of place?
Indeed, the highlands may not be the best place, but you go where the land is, provided it is accessible. Our first choice for the offices of human service agencies would be near City Hall, the Municipal Court, the food bank, senior center and more, but that has been explored and is not feasible.
The Issaquah City Council has already heard from a few residents in Issaquah Highlands who have concerns about the human services campus locating there. But a look at a similar campus in downtown Redmond shows there is little reason for concern. The old strip mall is bustling with clients, employees and volunteers. They mingle with shoppers at the bus stop, and enjoy a cup of coffee at outdoor picnic tables.
While we see little reason to not expect the same blending of interests at the highlands, we are pleased to know that concerns are being raised and questions asked. A human services campus will become an integral piece of the community fabric, and open discussion will be necessary.
First, we need the city administration and council to keep up the push for this intricate land swap that will move growth densities from the forest to the urban areas. Then, there will be many details for the community to weigh in on — including the founding of a human services campus.