Gilman Square plan could add 340 residences
October 22, 2013
By Peter Clark
A pre-application for three five-story buildings at Gilman Square could mark the first test of the Central Issaquah Plan.
Developer Lennar Multifamily Investors wishes to turn the 6.7-acre site, the home of Lombardi’s Restaurant until it shut its doors in July, into a large residential location. They entered talks with the city in September before submitting a pre-application in early October.
The proposed development of more than 340 new multifamily residences will introduce a population of close to 650.
The developers believe the location — in the heart of central Issaquah and on the banks of Issaquah Creek — will attract many residents.
“Despite the many site restrictions imposed by the proximity to Issaquah Creek and the adjacent low-rise commercial development, the property is ideal for a medium-density residential development allowed within this zoning district,” the developers wrote in the pre-application. “Creating a pedestrian character to the existing roads and introducing pedestrian paths across the site builds upon the vision of the ‘Green Necklace’ network.”
“We’re currently waiting for them to resubmit,” Development Services Department Project Oversight Manager Christopher Wright said, mentioning some concerns the city had about the pre-application.
The city desired a re-evaluation of aspects such as the location of some parking, drainage ditch sizes and street front appearance.
“It was nothing really earth-shattering,” Wright said, adding that he was optimistic about talks moving forward.
The Development Services Department has made an attempt over the past year to overhaul the permitting process in an interest of making it more streamlined and developer friendly. The Lennar Multifamily Investors plan could be the first to go through that process and provide valuable user experience for the city.
“Things are really going forward, though, we are just really in the early stages,” Wright said. “It’s notable. It could be the first big one in central Issaquah.”
Last year, the City Council adopted the Central Issaquah Plan, a long-term vision to redevelop the sprawling city center area into a sustainable, multi-use zone. Early on, Economic Development Department Director Keith Niven said the Gilman Square landowner was anxious to redevelop the property.
“The property owner put his property on the market before the CIP standards were even adopted,” Niven said. “Pretty much almost immediately, we started having developers ask about the property and what could be done there.”
Lennar’s idea for how to use the land is notable as it is the first of what the city expects to be a decadeslong re-imagining of central Issaquah. However, the pre-application might not fit the specific vision of the city.
“The plans they came in with were residential,” Niven said. “The city asked them if they would consider mixed-use on the property, but they felt like the city had adequate retail.”
Niven was not deterred, saying the CIP does not require developers to plan mixed-use buildings.
“You have to put all the pieces together,” he said. “There are a number of goals in the CIP, including bringing in residential with the nonresidential. Over 400-some people would be moved into the area and that’s great.”
While the developer finds value in the land’s proximity to the Issaquah Creek, it comes with another hurdle for redevelopment. The property floods often. Senior Planner Jerry Lind said the developer was aware and included considerations of the creek in the design.
“It does get wet out there when it rains,” Lind said. “They are developing the building with that in mind.”
Lind, the primary contact between Lennar Multifamily Investors and the city, did not have a schedule for the proposed redevelopment, but said it would go before residents before construction began.
“There is no timeline, unfortunately,” he said. “We’ve just been in the collaboration stages at this point. Eventually, this will go through the public hearing process.”
Lennar Multifamily Investors declined to comment until it finishes a feasibility analysis.