Development commissioners weigh medical building, Station 72 proposals

July 2, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 12:23 p.m. July 2, 2009

City development commissioners raised questions Wednesday night about a pair of high-profile projects — a medical building along Interstate 90 and Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72.

Before developers can begin work on the proposed medical building, designers must soften the “fortresslike” facade and ensure easy access to the site, city development commissioners said.

The planned Issaquah Medical Building would be a 43,000-square-foot, three-level structure with a two-level parking garage. Plans call for the building to be constructed on about two acres at the former Zetec Inc., property — a wedge of land between westbound I-90 and Pickering Trail. The planned I-90 Undercrossing will be built just east of the site.

City Senior Planner Christopher Wright told commissioners the undercrossing would improve access to the Issaquah Medical Building property. Commissioners told representatives of property owner 224th Ave. LLC, construction of the oft-delayed undercrossing would be critical. The undercrossing will link Northwest Gilman Boulevard to Southeast 56th Street.

“Are we going to end up having a building that doesn’t have access?” Commissioner Carl Swedberg asked.

Developers plan to link the site to the surrounding street grid.

“I can assure you, I can’t get financing and I can’t get tenants unless I’ve got a road in to the building,” said Bob Power, a representative of the property owner. “We’re building that road ourselves from the northern end of our property to the southern end of our property.”

Plans call for a building height of 64 feet — 24 feet higher than the allowed 40 feet for the site. Developers will be exempted from the height limit by constructing a building with setbacks and creating additional open space on the property.

Other concerns with the Issaquah Medical Building related to aesthetics. Commissioners asked designers to punctuate the expansive parking structure with landscaping.

Commissioner Melvin Morgan praised the design, but raised issues about the entryway to the building. He said that although people would enter the building through the parking structure, the main entrance should be easier to locate.

“I think it’s a very attractive building,” Morgan said. “The one thing that I think — I would agree with staff — that might need more addressing is the entryway and some enhancement there. Since most of the site is made up of a parking garage that I think could end up looking somewhat fortresslike from the street level, that main entrance there — even though a lot of people are going to enter from inside the building — I still think it needs to be enhanced more to look even more inviting and more prominent.”

Commissioners also reviewed plans for Station 72, a planned EFR facility set to be built at 1575 N.W. Maple St., on the undeveloped northeast corner of the Issaquah Transit Center site.

Plans call for the station to be built with 6,900 square feet of office and living space, and another 4,500 square feet for equipment and support space, including fire truck bays.

The planned station would replace the outdated EFR facility at 1770 Maple St.

City officials budgeted up to $8 million to build the fire station. Project Manager Brad Liljequist told commissioners the station would include features kind to the project budget and the environment.

“Our hope is, this is a municipal facility and we want to be proud of it,” he said.

In November, voters overwhelmingly approved a $4.5 million bond to build Station 72. On Dec. 1, the City Council authorized $235,000 to continue design work for the planned station.

Officials could release additional design money and approve a finance agreement related to Station 72 when the City Council meets July 20. Before design work can proceed, City Council members must authorize spending up to $1.1 million.

EFR Deputy Chief of Planning Wes Collins said officials first identified a need for a fire station in the northwestern part of the city in 1986.

Collins said he received a hopeful sign when he stopped for Chinese food before the Development Commission meeting. The message inside his fortune cookie read, “You will reach a goal for which you have been striving.”

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