Officials evaluate economic development effort

March 30, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

A decision to exempt certain developments from a city fee marked an important step toward making Issaquah more attractive to businesses, according to a report presented to the City Council last week.

The report, serving as a blueprint for future economic development efforts, outlines 22 measures officials can take to enhance the economic vitality of the city.

A recommendation to exempt up to 10,000 square feet of commercial development from transportation impact fees was enacted by the City Council in January.

During his March 24 presentation to the council, city Economic Development Manager Daniel Trimble cited the decision as a sign of progress. His presentation pointed to the impact-fee decision and updated review requirements for downtown construction as part of the effort to revitalize downtown and encourage higher density along Front Street.

Other measures listed in the presentation encourage officials to increase mass transit coverage, support environmentally friendly building practices and attract a variety of businesses.

Though the recession has curbed housing construction, Trimble pointed to a planned Swedish Medical Center campus in the Issaquah Highlands and Overlake Center as projects moving forward despite the downturn. Overlake Hospital Medical Center offices will anchor Overlake Center, a retail development near East Lake Sammamish Parkway, set to open this summer. Trimble said the developments would serve as magnets for other medical offices.

Trimble listed several projects scheduled to open despite the downturn. Examples include the opening of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in the defunct Chili’s Grill & Bar space, the launch of an art school at artbyfire at its Front Street gallery and the construction of a “green” office building at 485 Rainier Blvd. N.

Councilman David Kappler said he wanted city officials to encourage developers to make sound environmental decisions.

Trimble offered updates from the plan, released in November 2006 by the city Economic Vitality Task Force.

Some elements from the initial report have been adopted. For instance, the report suggested officials create a Human Services Commission to aid struggling residents. In turn, the city launched the commission in October 2007.

Other suggestions could require years to produce results, such as the effort to lure a branch of a college campus to Issaquah.

“Economic vitality is everybody’s business in the community,” Councilman Fred Butler said.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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