Plan recommends tall buildings in Central Issaquah
November 2, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
City task force re-envisions 915-acre business district
Issaquah in the decades ahead could be punctuated by tall buildings — some as high as 150 feet — and arranged around a greenbelt and pedestrian paths.
The suggestion from the Central Issaquah Plan Advisory Task Force is included in a proposal for the 915-acre area straddling Interstate 90 from the far edge of the city to Northeast Gilman Boulevard. The group has offered a bold plan to transform acre upon acre of strip malls and parking lots into dense neighborhoods bordered by parks and linked by mass transit.
The city rolled out the proposal Oct. 27, after the task force logged almost 1,000 hours across 13 months to prepare the plan. If the city decides to implement the plan, any results could be decades distant.
The plan re-envisions Central Issaquah as a blend of businesses and residences ringed by a “green necklace” of parks and trails. The task force studied redevelopment efforts in nearby cities for inspiration, but members said the result is tailored to Issaquah.
“We didn’t want to reinvent Issaquah as Mercer Island or reinvent Issaquah as Bellevue,” task force Chairman Joe Forkner said during the public debut at Pickering Barn.
The plan heads to the city Planning Department and then on to the Planning Policy Commission for adjustments. The proposal requires approval from the City Council, which should start to sift through the plan next year.
Planners proposed a robust public process as the proposal bounces from committee to committee.
“This plan, like all plans, is not cast in stone,” city Planning Director Mark Hinthorne said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Mayor Ava Frisinger formed a 12-member task force in September 2009 to draft the proposal. The group included developers, environmentalists, landowners and residents.
The task force carved Central Issaquah into districts, including proposed neighborhoods meant to connect to Lake Sammamish State Park and Tibbetts Creek, plus a compact core along Northwest Gilman Boulevard.
The group said additional residential neighborhoods could increase capacity for affordable housing.
The plan also offers ambitious recommendations to upgrade the transportation network in Central Issaquah. The proposal calls for additional crossings between north and south Issaquah across the interstate, plus north-south streets, bike lanes and trail connectors inside the proposed development areas.
Sajal Sahay, a task force member and planning policy commissioner, said the density reflected in the plan aims to address projected population growth in Issaquah.
Central Issaquah can accommodate population targets for 2031 — 5,000 additional households and 20,000 additional jobs — if the strip malls and parking lots transform into mixed-use buildings. Under the existing arrangement, 75 percent of the 915-acre area is encased under parking lots.
“Whether we like it or not, population growth is going to happen,” Sahay said.
Learn more about the recommendations for Central Issaquah, and read the complete proposal, at the city Planning Department website. Call the department at 837-3080.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.