July 26, 2011
Highlands strip mall design is not wanted
It’s good news that Regency Centers has agreed to purchase land and develop a shopping center in the Issaquah Highlands. Residents there have been vocal about their desire for a nearby grocery store and neighborhood services.
Sometimes you do get what you ask for, but in this case we hope the city has learned that not all shopping centers are created equal. Issaquah should not settle for another strip mall surrounding a grocery store, similar to nearby Pine Lake Village and Sammamish Highlands centers, both part of Regency Centers.
Strip malls were acceptable 30 or 40 years ago when they were springing up around the country to service new housing starts. But the city of Issaquah has spent the last two years creating a central business district redevelopment plan to address the abundance of paved parking areas and the separation of stores, homes, offices and recreation.
How ironic it would be to allow a strip mall to be built in the newest part of the city while the older parts begin moving toward a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented lifestyle!
Of course, walking to a grocery store would be terrific for highlands residents who just need more diapers and a gallon of milk. But realistically, most will still need to drive — just as they do now — to existing stores.
The plan for the highlands had been to have a multiblock shopping district similar to University Village. National name retailers like Crate & Barrel were discussed, with office space and condos on upper floors. A parking garage would serve all the stores, along with curbside parking along Highlands Drive Northeast.
Times have changed and retailers have pulled back expansion plans. And why shouldn’t they? Nearly every store we desire is already located on the Eastside, and online “storefronts” have become more predominant.
Issaquah should proceed with clear direction for Regency Centers as the development process begins. LEED standards should be stressed, if not adhered to. Parking lots should be multistory, as should all buildings. Pedestrian-oriented traffic patterns, combined with gathering places and passive recreational uses, should be mandated. Design standards should be creative but timeless.
The city of Issaquah has hopefully learned its lessons via its struggling-but-surviving strip centers. Here’s a chance to set a new retail standard that reflects the model “green” community the highlands have become.