Work stalls on Front Street properties

August 18, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

The ARCO gas station at the corner of Gilman Boulevard and Front Street remains undeveloped. By Adam Eschbach

The ARCO gas station at the corner of Gilman Boulevard and Front Street remains undeveloped. By Adam Eschbach

City officials issued a building permit for a 10,500-square-foot commercial building at a prime Front Street North location in early February. Since then, however, the site at 670 Front St. N. has gone undeveloped — a result of the cool economy and a tough retail market.

City officials have raised questions about the site — where Skippers restaurant once stood — and a nearby ARCO station in the midst of a delayed renovation project. Council President Maureen McCarry and Councilman Fred Butler raised questions about the ARCO site during a July 8 meeting with City Administrator Leon Kos.City planners assigned to the projects said the Front Street Crossing — the name of the proposed development at the Skippers site — and ARCO efforts were in the hands of developers. Permits for both sites have been issued, though work has been slow.

“It’s no secret that we’re in an economic downturn,” said Front Street Crossing developer Mark Sandler, president of Benchmark Development Corp., of Bellevue.

“Due to circumstances, we have an unavoidable delay,” he added.

City Senior Planner Jerry Lind, who worked on the Front Street Crossing effort, offered a similar assessment.

“I think the recession has slowed down construction on that building,” Lind said.

Sandler has time to launch his development: Building permits remain active for three years.

In the meantime, however, city officials worry about the aesthetics of a defunct gas station and empty lot along a main street that people use when they come into town.

City Code Compliance Officer Michele Forkner asked owners of the ARCO property to sweep debris from around the building and remove the old sign that advertised gas prices. Forkner said she has not received any complaints related to the old Skippers property.

City Senior Planner Mark Pywell, who worked on the ARCO project, said he was unsure about when work would begin in earnest at the gas station site. Plans call for construction of a convenience store inside the station and a refurbished canopy above the gas pumps.

Sandler said the recession made it difficult to find takers for the ground-floor retail and upstairs office space he plans to build at Front Street Crossing. He described the location, near the Interstate 90 interchange and the busy Northwest Gilman Boulevard intersection, as the “gateway to Issaquah.”

“We could start just about anytime,” Sandler said.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment on this story at

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