Atlas redevelopment project approved for Seventh and Gilman
May 13, 2014
By Peter Clark
Redevelopment of Seventh Avenue Northwest and Northwest Gilman Boulevard earned Development Commission approval May 7.
The city Development Commission welcomed the topic during two three-hour meetings April 16 and May 7. The commission received presentations from designers GGLO Architects, the city’s Development Services Department, as well as an outpouring of public comments. During the latter meeting, the commission unanimously approved the permit application.
“It’s got another new name since last we met,” City Senior Planner Jerry Lind said during the May 7 meeting. “It’s now called ‘Atlas’. We’ve seen the name Cadence. That one you want to erase from your mind. It’s evolved and it’s possible it could change again.”
Lennar Multifamily Investors has worked with the city for the past year to redevelop the land on which currently sits a strip mall and the closed Lombardi’s restaurant. Lennar aims to construct three five-story residential buildings that will contain 346 units.
The plans for the Atlas project have been available from the city for a few months and meetings with the public have addressed the parcel’s proximity to Issaquah Creek. Citizen concerns have risen regarding a history of flooding events that have stricken the property over the years. The April 16 meeting evaluated the whole of the development plans.
“We are very cognizant of the fact that we’re very conspicuous,” Lennar Multifamily Investors Development Director Tom Bartholomew said to the commission. “It has gone very smoothly. We’re really excited to be here tonight displaying this project. We’re very proud of it.”
A presentation from Alan Grainger, principal with GGLO Architects, highlighted the commitment to protect the parcel from flooding and follow the city’s guidelines.
The redevelopers plan to extend the bank of Issaquah Creek, raise the grading on which the buildings will stand and dig a swale through the property, which Grainger said will guide flood waters to the outlet on the other side of the property.
Additionally, since the redevelopment will mark the first test of the Central Issaquah Plan, he pointed out the many ways in which the plan sought to realize the city’s vision for the future.
“We love the green necklace piece of the Central Issaquah Plan,” Grainger said. “We’re happy to include a pocket park, a shared-use trail and an attractive landscape as a part of our package.”
The addition of almost 350 residential units to the area would certainly affect traffic. To address that impact, Granger said the developers will add a new traffic signal on Northwest Gilman Boulevard.
“Because of the increased traffic, we are installing a new signal at Seventh and Gilman and new turn lanes — we’re actually removing the median through this area to create new turn lanes,” he said. “Other new street improvements along Seventh Avenue will include new sidewalks, a new bus stop relocation, and we’re actually introducing a new trail following the swale and crossing a foot bridge.”
Public reaction during the latest meeting was more positive than the comments given during previous Rivers & Streams Board presentations.
“I’ve been a vendor at one of the businesses that will be displaced by this development,” Kay Johnson said, praising the plans. “I thought the landscaping was absolutely fabulous and I think it’s going to be such a huge improvement. I think people are going to love it.”
Her sentiments were repeated by most of those who stood to speak.
“I’ve been working at the antiques mall on the site for about two years now,” resident Ethan Sherrard said. “I think the project is very exciting, I think there’s been a lot of consideration to amenities.”
A few brought up the removal of retail from the parcel, worried that the new space would not provide any jobs. However, flood hazards continued to top the list of public concerns.
“This is a site I walk by every day and I understand what’s been done to protect the building from water,” resident Blake Flood said. “I have my doubts. I know professionals are involved, but I’m in the construction industry and I’ve seen some things. If water gets in there, you’re impacting potentially 300 people.”
City Project Oversight Manager Christopher Wright said the permit will be officially approved in the next week or two. Afterward, the permit will enter a two-week appeal period before being issued to the developers.
He said Lennar can apply for construction permits at any time.
Commission members thanked the architects and developers for the consideration of Issaquah’s vision.
“I think this is a catalyst for the Central Issaquah Plan,” Development Commission member Randy Harrison said. “It’s the start. It’s going to be looked at and people will provide all kind of comments about how they love it, how they may not like it so much and what we could have done better. But I appreciate all the work that’s gone into it and the risks that you’ve taken.”