Nearly 90 acres eyed for redevelopment

January 12, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

City officials and Rowley Properties executives announced plans last week to redevelop almost 90 acres in Central Issaquah, the commercial area spread across 915 acres along Interstate 90.Officials will shape the proposal in concert with a sweeping plan to redevelop the commercial district near state Route 900 and I-90. The early proposal calls for Hyla Crossing — almost 62 acres near Northwest Gilman Boulevard and state Route 900 — and Rowley Center, about 26 acres in the same area, to be redeveloped during the next several decades. The commercial complexes fall within areas identified by growth consultants to possess the best potential for redevelopment.

Under the proposed development agreement, Rowley Properties will partner with the city to redevelop the sites to create mixed-use destinations. Planners envision the area — now a string of strip malls along busy thoroughfares — as a town center connected by pedestrian walkways and mass transit, possibly light rail.

Officials said the process will include public input, and the city Planning Policy Commission and Council Land Use Committee will guide the effort.

First, the proposed development agreement will be included among proposed Comprehensive Plan amendments headed to the Planning Policy Commission. Commissioners will hold the initial public hearing on the amendments Jan. 14.

The amendments are scheduled to reach the City Council in March. After officials approve the proposals, city staffers will develop final amendments for review.

The pact seeks to help the city and developer plan a “well-defined gateway” into Issaquah, help attract new business, combine public and private resources, increase housing and transportation, and improve storm water management.

“A development agreement will provide the certainty and flexibility needed to achieve our plan, building by building over the next two decades. It’s the only way we’ll be able to deliver something special and unique that meets our community’s expectation and continues to uphold the character of Issaquah we all love,” Rowley Properties Chairman Skip Rowley said in a news release.

Mayor Ava Frisinger said how the projects take shape — whether with high rises or with residential and commercial properties built in close proximity — will be determined in coming decades. But she said the redevelopment effort is not a push to create another urban village.

“It would not replicate, on a smaller scale, Talus or the Issaquah Highlands,” she added.

Frisinger said the city joined with Rowley Properties because the developer is better positioned than other businesses to move forward in the down economy.

The agreement “would enable things to happen more quickly if the economy supports them,” she said. Officials seek to forge a decades-long framework for redevelopment. Frisinger said the process should be slow to materialize.

“For people who would like to see something happen immediately, they’ll doubtless be disappointed, because it won’t,” Frisinger said.

The mayor appointed a 12-member task force in September to map the future of the Central Issaquah Plan, the key redevelopment document for the commercial area. The group will spend the next several months forming a blueprint for redevelopment in the designated zone. A report is due to the Planning Policy Commission by September. The proposal then heads to Frisinger and the City Council.

The mayor expects the report to be important during redevelopment discussions with Rowley Properties.

“If you have a guiding principle that says X, what does it look like on the ground?” Frisinger said.

When leaders announced the proposed agreement Jan. 8, the developer sought to assuage concerns about rampant growth.

“A focus upon nature is a unique and fundamental characteristic of Issaquah,” CEO Kari Rowley-Magill said in the release. “Our development efforts will be tailored to fit the community’s needs, keeping in mind that Issaquah does not want to be another Bellevue nor Eastgate, for that matter.”

The developer said the redevelopment effort would proceed with bicyclists and pedestrians in mind.

“Our planning efforts will focus on development that amplifies the property’s treasures creating density that enables a bicycle-pedestrian-focused, mixed-use environment connecting to nature physically and visually,” Rowley-Magill said.

Get involved

Planning Policy Commission

6:30 p.m. Jan. 14

Council Chambers, City Hall South

135 E. Sunset Way

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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