Highlands grocery store deal off

May 5, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 10:15 p.m. May 5, 2009

A Central Market grocery store will not open in the Issaquah Highlands, city officials and a project developer said tonight. Highlands developer Port Blakely Communities planned to open a 50,000 square foot store in mid-2010.

Highlands residents have long lamented the lack of a grocery store in the hillside community. Port Blakely is negotiating with other grocery chains to occupy the site, said Kathy Burnaman, Port Blakely’s vice president of project development.

Blame a tough economy for the delay. The downturn has slowed other long-planned retail offerings in the highlands. Burnaman said talks with other grocers are ongoing.

“Due to the economy and the grocery industry, Central Market has decided not to expand here currently,” she said. “What that does mean is that we’re currently in talks with other grocers and negotiating a new deal.” Central Market is an imprint of Town & Country Markets, which operates six groceries across the Puget Sound region.

A Town & Country Markets representative could not be reached tonight.

Burnaman addressed members of the city Urban Village Development Commission, which oversees projects in the highlands and Talus. She said a grocery store would be part of the first phase of new commercial development in the highlands

“We will have a grocer in Phase 1, but we don’t have a name to announce today,” Burnaman said.

Urban Village Development Commission Vice Chairman John Milne said most development in the highlands has been residential. He asked what plans Port Blakely had for commercial construction.

In addition to the grocery, plans for Phase 1 call for construction of a movie theater surrounded by retail space and restaurants. Plans also call for construction of a parking garage with about 545 stalls.

“Leasing is very positive right now,” Burnaman said. “It’s slower than we would like, but it’s good considering what’s happening nationally.”

Financing for the project has been tough to secure amid the recession.

“While today, a construction financing package is not available to a project our size, we do anticipate having something available to us by early next year,” Burnaman said.

She said Port Blakely would continue to work on site plans and seek city development permits.

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5 Responses to “Highlands grocery store deal off”

  1. John Brasino PhD, PE on May 6th, 2009 8:42 am

    I wonder how much of the delay in commercial development in the Highlands is a direct result of just how difficult the City of Issaquah has been with regard to any development. I think for example Microsoft found Bellevue much more accommodating and interested in helping them place employees within their City limits…. and now they are there, not here.

    I think Issaquah has a lot of work to do to convince business that it can be rational toward development. From spectacles like defeat of the bypass, to “preservation” of a dysfunctional and unattractive city center just because it is old – the City has a long way to go to earn trust and attract investment.

  2. Ash on May 6th, 2009 11:00 am

    I totally agree. The city is too much concerned with preserving old world heritage rather than adapting to changes. Bellevue has just sky-rocketed in the last few years by opening up to businesses. And in a typical catalyst symbiotic relationship, businesses get attracted to residents and residents get attracted to businesses, making both entities want to move to Bellevue. Issaquah needs to take a leaf from Bellevue’s playbook and attract businneses with more favorable options, even if it means bending over backwards at times.

  3. Anonymous on May 6th, 2009 12:58 pm

    Issaquah needs a state of the art theater complex and I would like to see Port Blakely push fwd with some development rather than waiting until every piece is perfectly in place.

  4. TheHouseDog on May 12th, 2009 12:44 pm

    Remember folks – the Highlands Shopping Experience is “coming soon!” And it’s been coming soon for the last 5 years! Perhaps now it is less soon than later, but obviously for most of us, it’s not at all soon enough.

    The City had an opportunity to direct Port Blakely to front load business in the Highlands, including stores and other employment opportunities that was promised to residents, and Port Blakely strong-armed the City to let them do what they want.

    Well, they are doing what they want and residents of Issaquah have nothing to show but the green and brown “mounds of mystery” where economic activity could have been taking place. In Issaquah we know the price of everything and the value of nothing; wasted space, wasted time, wasted opportunity all to make things “better’.

  5. annonymous on May 25th, 2009 11:06 pm

    Port Blakely doesn’t know what they are doing they are to high in their standards for the real quality they present. If they knew what they were doing a real shopping center would have been up and running by 2008. I think some new dovelopers with normal realistic standards take over and a true mall would be running smooth.

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