Construction could start on Issaquah Highlands retail center soon

May 8, 2012

More options to shop and dine in the Issaquah Highlands could open as soon as next year, after a landmark decision by city officials to approve a long-awaited retail complex in the neighborhood.

Regency Centers, a real estate investment trust based in Florida, intends to build the retail complex, dubbed Grand Ridge Plaza, on vacant land along Highlands Drive Northeast between Swedish/Issaquah and the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride. Construction could start as early as next month.

The decision by the Urban Village Development Commission represents a milestone in the stop-and-go effort to add more retail options in the neighborhood. The commission — a city board to oversee large-scale projects in the highlands and Talus — OK’d the site development permit for Grand Ridge Plaza in a May 1 decision.

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Growth is focus as City Council, Issaquah School Board meet

May 1, 2012

City and Issaquah School District leaders pledged coordination and cooperation as the city outlines a bold plan to add thousands of residences in the decades ahead.

Chad Magendanz

Discussion about the Central Issaquah Plan — a proposal to transform more than 900 acres near Interstate 90 and state Route 900 — and possible changes to the school district, such as redrawing boundaries for schools to accommodate population shifts, dominated the annual joint meeting April 24.

City Council and Issaquah School Board members, plus Mayor Ava Frisinger and Superintendent Steve Rasmussen and other officials, gathered at Mandarin Garden a week after school district voters approved a $219 million bond to fuel a school construction boom. The planned projects include major changes for schools in downtown Issaquah.

The groups, seated beneath red lanterns and arranged around lazy Susans, sipped tea and nibbled on fried rice and roast pork as discussion unfolded about long-term development plans. (The city hosted the meal and spent $311.24 on food and beverages.)

“Both organizations have gone from fast-growing organizations to more stable, mature organizations with different sets of issues,” Council President Tola Marts said. “So, now the challenge is how do we manage the remaining growth that we have?”

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King County Metro Transit expands Issaquah bus service

February 21, 2012

Issaquah residents can expect more bus trips to Seattle under the latest King County Metro Transit service plan.

Officials added 500 hours for weekday service on Route 218 buses from the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride to Seattle. The change comes as Metro Transit shifts more than 35,000 hours of service from lower-performing bus routes throughout the system to bolster service on high ridership routes.

King County Council members adopted the changes in a unanimous decision Jan. 30.

“This is another step in the long march towards reforming how Metro serves King County riders,” council Vice Chairwoman Jane Hague said in a statement. “Eastsiders over the course of this process are also going to see an overall increase in their service hours.”

The shift in service is also meant to address issues related to crowding and on-time performance, and add service to underserved corridors.

Milestones from the year 2011 reflect changes

December 27, 2011

Renewal defined the year, as the community paused after a population boom and economic bust — and positioned Issaquah for the decades ahead.

Milestones from the last 12 months offer contrasts.

Leaders opened showcases for “green” design and concluded a milestone effort to preserve Tiger Mountain forestland. Tragedy left indelible impressions, too, as a gunman menaced downtown pedestrians on a September morning and turned a school campus into a crime scene.

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Issaquah Highlands pedestrian bridge is meant to smooth access

December 13, 2011

The pedestrian bridge across Highlands Drive Northeast is lifted into place the early morning of Dec. 8 after arriving on site the day before in pieces on flatbed trucks from Florida. Contributed

The route is easier for pedestrians to cross a major thoroughfare after crews completed a pedestrian bridge across Highlands Drive Northeast on a moonlit morning last week.

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Zombie dancers shuffle, step to ‘Thriller’ for record attempt

October 25, 2011

Chandler Osman, 12, an Issaquah Middle School student, strikes a ‘Thriller’ pose Oct. 22 during rehearsal for Green Halloween Festival performances. By Greg Farrar

The undead shuffle across TV and cinema screens. Zombies chomp across bestseller lists. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a droll guide to surviving a zombie apocalypse.

The zombie zeitgeist is ceaseless. Just like a horde of the undead on a mindless search for brains.

The pop culture phenomenon reaches Issaquah on Oct. 29 as revelers dressed as the undead shuffle downtown and in the Issaquah Highlands just before Halloween.

The most able-bodied zombies plan to inch to the Green Halloween Festival and the Issaquah Library to duplicate the complicated choreography from the 1983 Michael Jackson epic, “Thriller” — a 14-minute MTV masterpiece from “An American Werewolf in London” director John Landis.

Zombies plan to re-create “Thriller” at 2 p.m. for festivalgoers and at 4 p.m. at the downtown library. Then, zombies around the globe plan to gather for Thrill the World, a simultaneous attempt to dance to “Thriller” and set a world record. In Issaquah, 6 p.m. is the designated hour for the Thrill the World attempt.

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Mitsubishi rolls out electric vehicle at zHome

October 11, 2011

Mitsubishi is rolling out the i, billed as the most-affordable electric vehicle on the U.S. market, Oct. 15-16 at a “green” venue — zHome, a carbon-neutral community in Issaquah.

The team behind zHome and Mitsubishi partnered to offer zHome attendees a chance to test-drive the car. The i is rated for a miles-per-gallon equivalent of 112.

Enthusiasts can see the i from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 15 and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 16.

Mitsubishi loaned a Japanese model of the vehicle to zHome Project Manager Brad Liljequist during the summer.

“It was quiet, quick and surprisingly roomy given its small size,” he wrote in a post to the zHome blog.

In addition to kicking the tires on the i, attendees can also tour zHome. The site is along Northeast High Street, just east of YWCA Family Village at Issaquah and the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride.

The “green” complex features electric-vehicle charging stations.

The i is also scheduled to appear at Best Buy, 6000 E. Lake Sammamish Parkway S.E., from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 22.

Change comes to Issaquah bus routes Oct. 1

September 27, 2011

King County Metro Transit riders should prepare for changes soon as transportation planners adjust routes between Issaquah and Seattle.

Issaquah routes receive some shuffling in the latest service plan from the mass transit agency. Under a service plan starting Oct. 1, Route 211 runs from hospital-dense First Hill in Seattle to the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride. Metro Transit is also adding trips departing First Hill for the highlands at 3:05 and 5:30 p.m.

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City, King County leaders flip switch on zHome

September 20, 2011

Issaquah and King County leaders gathered Sept. 14 to flip the switch on zHome, the first zero-energy, carbon-neutral multifamily community in the United States.

Built to use zero net energy and 70 percent less water than a traditional home, Issaquah, King County and other partners collaborated to open the 10-townhouse complex in the Issaquah Highlands. The project is meant to serve as a model for incorporating “green” elements into mainstream homebuilding.

King County Executive Dow Constantine (right, at lectern) prepares to address the crowd at the opening of zHome in the Issaquah Highlands on Sept. 14. Contributed

County Executive Dow Constantine joined Mayor Ava Frisinger to open the facility at a ceremony in the zHome courtyard.

“This pioneering project sets a new standard for how homes can — and should — be built in our region and country,” Frisinger said in a statement. “Our vision is that zHome’s innovative approach will catalyze the market for much ‘greener’ building materials and technologies, as well as inspire the next generation of homebuilders through examples that are replicable and market rate.”

The project included aggressive benchmarks to set a different standard in “green” homebuilding. Units in zHome range from the low $400,000s to the $600,000s.

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Family Village causes no concerns among Issaquah school officials

September 20, 2011

Occupants were expected to move in en masse in late June and managers expected most residents to occupy the new $53 million YWCA Family Village at Issaquah in the Issaquah Highlands by late August.

Designed to be affordable housing, Family Village is expected to attract its fair share of, well, families, including school-age children. Still, Issaquah School District officials say they are ready for what they expect to be a modest influx of new students.

Family Village consists of 146 units of affordable housing, said Cathy MacCaul, director of community affairs for the local YWCA.

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