Highlands YWCA facility groundbreaking set for Dec. 7
November 24, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
Officials will break ground early next month on a long-planned YWCA apartment complex in the Issaquah Highlands, a project hailed by city planners as a key piece of the highlands’ urban village concept.
The project will add 146 rental units to the highlands, as well as a childcare facility, a community center and offices for YWCA employees. Officials at the nonprofit hope to open the $52 million complex — known as YWCA Family Village at Issaquah — by late 2011.
Family Village will be built on about two acres at the northeast corner of Highlands Drive Northeast and Northeast High Street.
City and YWCA leaders will gather at the construction site Dec. 7 for a groundbreaking ceremony. Hours later, YWCA officials will answer questions about the project at Blakely Hall, during a public open house related to the project. Officials held several community meetings during the years the project was planned.
Plans outline a mixture of studio apartments and one-, two-, and three-bedroom units divided among three buildings. The pedestrian-friendly complex would be connected to the adjacent Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride by a footbridge built by the YWCA.When Family Village opens, the complex will add about 400 residents to the highlands, a community already home to about 7,000 people.
Cathy MacCaul, associate director of community affairs for the local YWCA, said the project would enhance the highlands with features, such as a childcare center and community spaces, that will be open to everyone.
The childcare facility, for instance, will be a public-private partnership and include about 150 spots for infants to school-aged children; up to 50 of the slots will be subsidized.
YWCA leaders described potential Family Village tenants as working families, disabled people and seniors who need affordable housing. The units will be reserved for people who earn 50 percent or less of King County’s median income, $40,700 for a family of four.
MacCaul eschewed the affordable-housing label and described the project as “income-qualified housing” for police officers, medical assistants and retail clerks.
The residents will be “people who can’t afford to live on the Eastside and often have to commute quite a ways,” MacCaul said.
City Major Development Review Team Program Manager Keith Niven said the project would reinforce the urban character of the highlands.
The development agreement between the city and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities mandates at least 30 percent affordable housing in the highlands.
Lucy Sloman, a planning consultant with the Major Development Review Team, said city planners like the inclusion of a high-density project near the transit facility. The expectation, she said, would be for residents to use mass transit. Moreover, Family Village would be a key element in providing affordable housing in Issaquah, Sloman added.
The project will incorporate eco-friendly features, like cisterns to hold reclaimed water and double-insulated walls and windows. Residents will also be encouraged to recycle.
Family Village could someday anchor a cluster of “green” buildings: A complex of energy-efficient townhouses known as zHome is planned for a nearby parcel. But the sluggish economy has slowed the development of zHome.
The affordable-housing effort has attracted attention from across the region: Family Village has been awarded a $2 million state loan, $1 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a $1 million gift from a private donor.
Family Village will become the latest project to break ground in the highlands in recent months. Construction in the highlands picked up in August, when crews began excavation work at a Swedish Medical Center campus just south of Highlands Drive Northeast.
Also in August, Port Blakely announced a deal to build a Regal movie theater in the community. The project, known as Regal Cinemas Issaquah Highlands Stadium 14, is scheduled to open in May 2011.
YWCA Family Village at Issaquah open house
4:30-7 p.m. Dec. 7
2550 N.E. Park Drive
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.