Press Editorial

July 26, 2011

By Staff

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.

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One Response to “Press Editorial”

  1. Joe on August 1st, 2011 1:14 pm

    I find it appalling that IH is “selling out” as it appears. More apartments in the area designed for high-end retail and now Regency. I can’t imagine Regency, know for it’s lack-luster design and strip mall approach, will help our property values. I guarantee the first thing to go in will be a low-end nail salon. Not only am I upset about this, but add the HORRIBLE new designs I’m seeing going in throughout the highlands. I feel like they are taking a once planned urban village oasis and writing it off as a “get as much as you can out of what’s left!”
    1- the gray no curb appeal box condos with garages underneath near the YWCA. Literally big gray boxes with tiny windows.
    2 – the “Z” homes – don’t fit into the Highlands design what so ever – looks like a space shuttle launch pad!
    3- the YWCA AWFUL bridge. Have you seen this thing? Could it get any uglier? Surely you could have added some design elements to it.
    4 – and who could miss the HORRIBLE monstrosity of a home (you can see it from Bellevue!) at the top of the hill on NE Harrison Street S. Who approved the design of this thing?! It’s awful…not to mention, unfinished after almost 2 years of construction! I’m sure there are some major funding issues here. Ironic that they built a huge tacky home to show off their money, yet can’t afford window coverings or landscaping.

    I understand the economy hit hard, but COME ON! Let’s not forget core values to for the sake of a quick $. Who am I kidding? Thanks IH for only keeping yourselves in mind as per usual!

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