UW students offer Issaquah ways to preserve identity
February 4, 2014
By Peter Clark
As Issaquah grows, a team of University of Washington students offered tips for how it can maintain its identity.
Aubri Denevan, Carrie Shepherd, Kim Lichttenegger and Yebin Zhou, members of a “Masters in Communications in Digital Media” program, were assigned the task of offering creative leadership to an area.
“At the beginning of the quarter, we were asked to give three problems we saw,” Lichttenegger said, adding that the students had to then identify recommendations to solve them. As a six-year resident of Issaquah, she saw a real opportunity to examine recommendations for the city. “Because I live in the lowlands, I work in Seattle and I commute up to the highlands, I’ve had a daily snapshot of all the building progress.”
Lichttenegger suggested her team evaluate how Issaquah could maintain its identity and they launched the project to seek recommendations to make to the city. Closer inspection of Issaquah led the students to point out three specific struggles. Specifically, they asked how the city can find a balance between old and new developments, how its history can influence the future and how it can strengthen that character.
“We believe it is in the best interest of Issaquah’s constituents to find a way to unify its old and new elements by cultivating and strengthening its unique community brand and identity,” the report reads.
The 30-year-old Olde Town resident wanted to keep the feel of Issaquah in the expanding future.
“I feel very personally attached to the history of the unique downtown area,” Lichttenegger said. “I was trying to see how to preserve Issaquah.”
After gathering information and closely looking at what challenges the city felt it faced in maintaining the rustic and cozy traditional feel, the students offered nine recommendations.
“This guide lists three main components of successful neighborhood design including ‘form and composition,’ ‘character and personality,’ and ‘environment and sustainable practice,’” the report reads. “We used these categories to organize our nine recommendations around preserving Issaquah’s identity.”
They recommended the formation of a 10-person “Uniquely Issaquah Council” representing many neighborhoods and businesses that would work with the chamber of commerce and the city. Additionally, they called for digital crowdsourcing and cross-community events that would keep the city cohesive.
The students also recommended the city maintain its roots by featuring cultural performances, investing in transportation and preserving the notable environment.
“Our recommendations for stimulating creative engagement and unifying the new highlands area and the historic Olde Town are key to keeping Issaquah from losing elements of what makes it special and such an attractive place to live,” the report concludes.
City Communications Manager Autumn Monahan worked with the group to give the city’s perspective.
“We sat and had a long discussion on how to preserve our past and prepare for our future,” Monahan said, adding she was glad for the opportunity to receive a wide-range of opinions on Issaquah’s identity.
Having received the recommendations, she made sure they got into the right hands.
“I passed it along to the City Council and we’re going to share it with the Downtown Issaquah Association, our chamber of commerce and the Economic Vitality Commission,” Monahan said. “I’ve gotten some good feedback and people have really enjoyed reading it.”
Lichttenegger enjoyed hearing the city’s side of the issue.
“In talking to the city, I learned a lot about how much thought the city has put into retaining its identity already,” she said. “That was really cool to hear. I don’t think that’s something everybody knows.”
After finishing the recommendations, Lichttenegger said the students presented the ideas to the city for consideration.
“I think there are a lot of untapped communities that could be developed still,” she said mentioning a beer hops festival and the outreach a Salmon Days app could provide. “There are a lot of cool and really interesting ideas and I hope this inspires the city.”