Three proposals arrive to invigorate state park
September 17, 2013
By Peter Clark
Three project proposals for Lake Sammamish State Park, including one to totally remake the park with a hotel/convention center, came to the city’s Economic Development Department by the deadline Sept. 9.
In a joint effort with Washington State Parks, the city released a request for proposals in August, asking for project ideas to reinvigorate and make use of the park under the redevelopment and restoration plan adopted in 2007.
Economic Development Director Keith Niven said the three full project outlines are markedly different, but he found positive aspects across the board.
“I see all of these to be viable choices for the park,” he said. “I think they can all fit. I don’t think there is anything on the table that can’t be mitigated.”
Though the city has done much of the legwork, it is ultimately still a state park. The Economic Development Department will survey the proposals and flush out details, then make an official recommendation to the City Council, which will in turn make a recommendation to Washington Parks Department.
“At the end of the day, the state will still make the decision,” Niven said. “We’re going to bring in the proposal leads and ask questions.”
The three complete proposals varied widely in size. Anthony’s Restaurants submitted an idea for a lakeside restaurant. The Issaquah Soccer Club submitted a proposal to add multi-use sports fields, and add lighting and accessibility to existing fields. Finally, a consortium of interested parties developed a reworked master plan of the park, proposing a number of amenities ranging from a hotel/convention center to a boathouse.
Anthony’s Restaurant on the lake
Niven spoke of the Anthony’s Restaurant proposal in the most promising tones. The established chain proposed a 17,000-square-foot location on the waterfront that would highlight the surrounding environment.
“Anthony’s Restaurants is proposing to build a free-standing, waterfront view restaurant in Lake Sammamish State Park on property leased from Washington State Parks and/or the city of Issaquah,” the proposal reads. “The proposed restaurant will reflect the culture and feel of the Northwest and blend into the park’s development plans.”
Niven said the attraction could build attendance.
“If you put a nice restaurant there, it’s going to bring people to the park,” he said.
Currently, Anthony’s operates 23 locations throughout the Pacific Northwest.
New and improved sports fields
The Issaquah Soccer Club’s proposal would incorporate a new access road to existing fields, which would be widened and improved with lighting.
“The overall approach for the use of the property is, in simple terms, a more evolved, matured, efficient and planned version of the current use,” the proposal reads. “Instead of use predominantly by a single sport, with only concentrated use during roughly one-half of the year, we propose year-round use by multiple sports.
“Instead of schedule constraints that restrict the fields to almost exclusive use by youth athletes during daylight hours, the redevelopment would allow use by a broad spectrum of sports and age groups during the day and evening.”
Niven said private ownership would only extend to a ground lease, but the state would still maintain control of the land.
“They’d own those fields, but not the land,” Niven said of the soccer proposal, should it move forward. “This really isn’t that different than what’s out there.”
A self-sufficient park with amenities
The largest of the proposals was put together by The Committee to Redevelop Lake Sammamish State Park, a consortium of investors from Seattle looking to build out the park and rework the plan of use for the whole area.
“Our focus here is not on the State Parks System, but on a master plan for this park and the community that uses it,” the proposal from Freeman Fong Architecture reads. “Our proposal is focused on restoring and enhancing this park and making it financially and operationally self-sufficient. The scope of our proposal includes the entire park.
“In particular, we will stress facilities, programs, sports, activities and education that are relevant to the Pacific Northwest, including Native cultural elements, such as carving sheds or a long house.”
Niven found the large-scale view of the proposal admirably ambitious, but perhaps too revisionist for the state.
“They are thinking big, and I appreciate that they are thinking big,” he said. “No one’s going to master plan the park. That’s been done. These are expected to kind of work with the 2007 plan. It’s still a viable plan. These proposals are meant to complement it.”
He was able to point out several key aspects of the proposal that could work under further examination. A boathouse, camping grounds and other individual proposals were all viable parts Niven felt could be explored.
The careful, small approach
The city and state’s search for proposals has been a long time coming, but only gained ground in recent months. Niven said it came about largely due to the city’s addition of the Economic Development Department last year. With a department dedicated to fostering long-term investment in tourism and the business community, a request for proposals could be disseminated more efficiently.
“Council has identified a desire to have more cooperation with the state in Lake Sammamish State Park over the past few years,” Niven said.
He said many in the community were apprehensive about the goal of reinvigorating the park through private investment. He believed that the careful, small approach would help allay any fears about booming growth that might sully the park.
“The good thing about this is we’re not opening the floodgates,” he said. “We’ve only got three proposals that would like to relocate in Sammamish State Park.”
Neither the city nor the state have established a deadline for proposal examinations and recommendations.