Plan recommends tall buildings in Central Issaquah

November 2, 2010

City task force re-envisions 915-acre business district

Issaquah in the decades ahead could be punctuated by tall buildings — some as high as 150 feet — and arranged around a greenbelt and pedestrian paths.

The suggestion from the Central Issaquah Plan Advisory Task Force is included in a proposal for the 915-acre area straddling Interstate 90 from the far edge of the city to Northeast Gilman Boulevard. The group has offered a bold plan to transform acre upon acre of strip malls and parking lots into dense neighborhoods bordered by parks and linked by mass transit.

The city rolled out the proposal Oct. 27, after the task force logged almost 1,000 hours across 13 months to prepare the plan. If the city decides to implement the plan, any results could be decades distant.

The plan re-envisions Central Issaquah as a blend of businesses and residences ringed by a “green necklace” of parks and trails. The task force studied redevelopment efforts in nearby cities for inspiration, but members said the result is tailored to Issaquah.

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Cascade Business Park sold to Bellevue buyer

November 2, 2010

Sterling Realty Organization has purchased Cascade Business Park in Issaquah for $15.6 million.

The buyer, a Bellevue-based property management company, bought the property Sept. 30 from owner Steve Willard.

The complex is in Central Issaquah, a 915-acre area eyed for redevelopment in the decades ahead. Willard is a member of the Central Issaquah Plan Advisory Task Force, the group recommending how the area should redevelop.

Cascade Business Park, at the intersection of Northwest Maple Street and 12th Avenue Northwest, includes about 14,400 square feet of office space. The building opened in 1980.

Plan for Issaquah’s future to be unveiled

October 19, 2010

Glimpse the future — or at least how Central Issaquah might redevelop — at a city-sponsored open house next week.

Central Issaquah Plan Advisory Task Force members plan to unveil recommendations for future redevelopment Oct. 27.

The open house includes 10-minute overview presentations every 30 minutes on the half-hour, and displays to show recommendations. In addition, task force members plan to attend and answer participants’ questions.

The task force spent almost 1,000 hours during the past year to establish a vision for redevelopment in the area — a 915-acre swath along Interstate 90.

Planners envision the area — now a string of strip malls, self-storage facilities and parking lots laid out along busy thoroughfares — as a town center connected by pedestrian walkways and mass transit.

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City to unveil redevelopment plan for more than 900 acres

October 19, 2010

NEW — 8 a.m. Oct. 19, 2010

Glimpse the future — or, at least, how Central Issaquah might redevelop — at a city-sponsored open house next week.

Central Issaquah Plan Advisory Task Force members plan unveil recommendations for future redevelopment 4-7:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at Pickering Barn, 1730 10th Ave. N.W. Call 837-3080 or click here to learn more.

The open house includes 10-minute overview presentations every 30 minutes on the half hour, and displays to show recommendations. In addition task force members plan to attend and answer participants’ questions.

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Learn about long-term growth plans

October 12, 2010

Issaquah residents can take a sneak peek at the plan to re-envision more than 900 acres of the city Oct. 14.

Head to the Pickering Room at City Hall Northwest, 1775 12th Ave. N.W., from 6:30-8:30 p.m. to learn more about the Central Issaquah Plan and the proposed redevelopment of Rowley Properties land.

Joe Forkner, chairman of the Central Issaquah Plan task force, is scheduled to speak about the draft plan and offer a timeline for the project.

Representatives from Rowley Properties and the community advisory group for Rowley plan to address the meeting as well.

The event will include a brief workshop to prepare citizens to advocate for quality planning in order to preserve and enhance quality of life, natural beauty and community structure.

E-mail Cascade Land Conservancy representative Katie Collier at katiec@cascadeland.org to R.S.V.P. or learn more.

Learn about Issaquah’s long-term growth plans Thursday

October 11, 2010

NEW — 8 a.m. Oct. 11, 2010

Issaquah residents can take a sneak peek at the plan to re-envision more than 900 acres of the city Thursday.

Head to the Pickering Room at City Hall Northwest, 1775 12th Ave. N.W., from 6:30-8:30 p.m. to learn more about the Central Issaquah Plan and the proposed redevelopment of Rowley Properties land.

Joe Forkner, chairman of the Central Issaquah Plan task force, is scheduled to speak about the draft plan and offer a timeline for the project. Representatives from Rowley Properties and the community advisory group for Rowley proposal plan to address the meeting as well.

The event will include a brief workshop to prepare citizens to advocate for quality planning in order to preserve and enhance quality of life, natural beauty and community structure.

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Issaquah receives $100,000 grant to study potential land swap

October 5, 2010

Issaquah has received $100,000 to study how to protect land in the Issaquah Creek watershed and, at the same time, add density in the urban core.

The city plans to use the grant to conduct environmental and market analyses to create a transfer-of-development-rights receiving site in part of a 915-acre commercial core along Interstate 90.

Under such a transfer, a landowner sells development rights from properties in low-density areas to parties interested in building denser development in another area.

The state Department of Commerce and the Puget Sound Regional Council announced Sept. 15 more than $1 million in grants to 10 cities for transfer of development rights projects.

The dollars come from a federal Environmental Protection Agency program to support regional planning in the Puget Sound watershed.

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City’s population nudges upward

July 20, 2010

The number of people who moved to Issaquah last year could fit inside Pickering Barn and still have plenty of room to spare.

The annual tally from the state Office of Financial Management shows the city’s population nudged upward by 270 people last year, bringing the population to 27,160 residents. (The historic Pickering Barn holds 400 people.)

The latest population figures indicate a slowdown after a decade marked by large annexations and a housing construction boom in the Issaquah Highlands and Talus. The city ballooned by 139 percent between April 2000 and April 2009.

Issaquah ranked as the fifth fastest-growing city in the state during the previous decade. In early 2000, about 11,000 people called Issaquah home. The population had swelled to 26,890 by April 2009.

“It’s slowed down quite a bit, of course, over the last year, due to the recession,” city Planning Director Mark Hinthorne said.

Issaquah remains the 38th largest city in the state — a spot the city has held since 2008. The city ranked 61st in April 2000.

State demographers rely on changes in school enrollment, housing, voter registration, driver licensing and other indicators to determine population growth.

State officials use the population data to determine how dollars should be allotted to municipalities.

Despite the recession-related slowdown, Issaquah stands to grow in the years ahead. Earlier this year, planners proposed adding 5,750 housing units and 20,000 jobs to Issaquah by 2035.

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Press Editorial

June 15, 2010

Despite chatter to the contrary, the Central Issaquah Plan that will shape the future of the present business district remains very much unfinished, as a task force of city board members, business owners, environmentalists and residents works to complete a recommendation.

Mayor Ava Frisinger and the City Council hope the final plan guides development on 915 acres south of Interstate 90 in coming decades.

The conversation about a possible downtown park complex and greenbelt through the urban core, an efficient inner-city transit system, urban residences amidst commercial districts and other exciting prospects are still visions. Stay tuned to learn more this fall as the vision comes to the community for input.

When the task force delivers a draft in early fall, the real work begins. Planning Policy Commission members will work to refine the plan, and then send the draft to the City Council.

The long process will also allow plenty of opportunities for the public to weigh in on the final result. In the meantime, residents may attend task force meetings, although that discussion is limited to task force members.

Though tangible results remain years from fruition, the final document should provide a sweeping roadmap to redevelopment in the city’s commercial core.

Central Issaquah could be reshaped from car-centric sprawl defined by strip malls into a walkable community a place where — to borrow a phrase from the Issaquah Highlands developer — residents can live, work and play in close proximity to amenities.

Though the plan could remake Issaquah as we know it, we have faith in the task force and its chairman, former City Councilman Joe Forkner, to preserve Issaquah’s character and small-town charm. Early hints at the final plan hint at emphasis on greenbelts and mass transit — both encouraging signs for a “green” city such as ours.

Though the plan remains a work in progress, the city and Rowley Properties have already taken the steps necessary to turn 90 acres of strip-mall suburbia into part of the final vision. The public-private partnership shows the willingness of the city to use private dollars and ingenuity for the public good. Frisinger and her team, as well as Rowley executives, deserve credit for pursuing the agreement.

Issaquah eyed as a regional growth center

May 18, 2010

Designation could attract funds for mass transit

Leaders hope to attract dollars for transportation and mass transit to Issaquah by pitching a slice of the city as a regional hub for residences and jobs.

The effort will focus on the 915-acre commercial area spread along Interstate 90 and state Route 900. Planners hope the process will dovetail with the Central Issaquah Plan, a yearlong effort to chart redevelopment in the commercial core.

The long-term growth blueprint for the Puget Sound region calls for areas designated as regional growth centers. The designation helps officials plan regional transportation infrastructure and determine the best sites for economic development. The centers also receive higher priority for state and federal funding in order to connect the regional hubs.

The initial step calls for city planners to determine if Issaquah meets the growth center criteria laid out by the Puget Sound Regional Council — the planning authority for King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The agency distributes about $160 million per year in federal funding for transportation projects.

City Planning Director Mark Hinthorne said the Central Issaquah Plan effort fits well with the growth center designation. The task force drafting the plan should deliver a report to city leaders by September.

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