March 1, 2011
Downtown Issaquah has opportunity ahead
The DownTown Issaquah Association has a new director. That announcement may seem insignificant, but at second glance, the association is important to everyone who lives here.
Newcomers repeatedly say it is the historic downtown along Front Street that is a prime factor is choosing Issaquah. It’s that last vestige of bygone Norman Rockwell-like days that lure people here.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that doing business in this central core is easy. The downtown has its problems — like traffic, lack of adequate parking and lack of a destination store. But it has its pluses — at the heart of the civic area, lower rents and it’s pedestrian friendly.
When Village Theatre expanded to its Mainstage theater, it was predicted that the downtown would become a cultural district. It took years to do that, but over time came the opening of the new Issaquah Library, the monthly ArtWalks and weekly Music on the Streets, the founding of artEAST and its Up Front gallery, and other businesses rounding out the scene with art and music classes. More restaurants followed, some with live music of their own.
Downtown Issaquah is now alive and well. But that doesn’t mean the work is done. The new DownTown Issaquah Association director will focus on the inclusion of nearby residents on its membership roster and continuing to build on popular events.
But downtown also needs some sprucing up, starting with the return of its flower baskets. For nearly two decades, signage directing traffic to parking areas behind stores has been on the agenda. Work needs to be done with landlords to improve entry to buildings from rear parking lots. Add a Christmas parade to the annual tree lighting event. Turn the business-area Spring Clean into an entire area clean up. Host more events that help neighbors and business owners get acquainted. Dust off the city’s design guidelines and reacquaint landlords with the vision. Promote downtown shopping with events centered on existing business hours.
The new DownTown Issaquah Association director and new members of the board of directors have big shoes to fill, but plenty of opportunities await if they’ve got the enthusiasm to match.