Issaquah Highlands retail options to include RAM Restaurant & Brewery

October 3, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 p.m. Oct. 3, 2012

Tenants for the long-awaited retail complex in the Issaquah Highlands include local restaurants and a beauty supply store, city officials announced Tuesday.

The latest announcement for the $70 million highlands project, called Grand Ridge Plaza, adds RAM Restaurant & Brewery, Big Fish Grill and ULTA Beauty to the list alongside a Regal Cinemas multiplex, and a Safeway and associated gas station.

Lucy Sloman, city land development manager, and Keith Niven, city economic development director, announced the latest additions to the Urban Village Development Commission. The project developer, Regency Centers, and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities plan to unveil more tenants at a community meeting Oct. 10.

In another major development for the highlands, Microsoft plans to sell long-vacant land once envisioned for a campus, Niven said.

The land — south of Highlands Drive Northeast and north of Swedish/Issaquah — can accommodate 1.2 million square feet of commercial space. Microsoft’s initial proposal for the community included a 150-acre campus, but scuttled the plan in 2004.

The tenant announcement came as construction speeds along on the Regal Cinemas and associated parking structure near Northeast High Street and Highlands Drive Northeast .

“We got Regency to agree to give you guys a glimpse under the tent,” Niven said.

Big Fish Grill operates restaurants in Kirkland and Woodinville. Sloman said the owner is a highlands resident.

RAM Restaurant & Brewery encompasses 18 outposts in Washington, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana and Oregon. The national chain ULTA Beauty is comprised of more than 200 stores.

Big Fish Grill and RAM Restaurant & Brewery should open at the same time as the movie theater, possibly as early as next spring.

Grand Ridge Plaza encompasses 10 blocks and 15 buildings spread across 280,113 square feet. Leaders gathered in the highlands on a rainy June morning for a groundbreaking ceremony.

Officials also mentioned some setbacks in recent highlands projects.

Plans called for a bank to occupy a space near the Safeway gas station in Grand Ridge Plaza, but negotiations between Regency and a possible tenant hit a snag.

“The bank that they were in negotiations with pulled the plug, so at this point, I assume they’re going to go out and try to find another bank,” Niven said.

Meanwhile, construction is stalled on a long-planned Residence Inn by Marriott near Swedish/Issaquah. Developer InnSight HMG broke ground on the hotel in July. The hotel site is not part of Grand Ridge Plaza.

“They built the retaining wall but they have not built any part of the building wall,” Sloman said.

Meanwhile, Bellevue College administrators continue to plan for a highlands campus. The college announced plans in August 2010 to open a highlands campus, but a long search for the college’s next leader has slowed the process.

“They’re kind of in a holding pattern until they get a replacement president,” Niven said.

The overarching design outline, or master site plan, for the highlands campus could reach the Urban Village Development Commission for consideration in early 2013.

In May, college administrators hosted a forum in Issaquah to collect input about the planned campus.

“They’re still talking about programming,” Niven said. “They think they’ve got some ideas of some things they would like to move out to Issaquah.”

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