Issaquah Highlands Connections
I’M WALKIN’! - GRAND RIDGE PLAZA
A walker could take the direct path down NE Park Drive (blue line), or opt for the lovely College Drive and then through the Forest Ridge neighborhood (green line). For the more adventurous, try accessing the forest paved trail just west of the soccer fields. Traverse Forest Ridge then head down the stairs and the trail to the pond. Enjoy the waterfall at the south of the pond then direct yourself on to Grand Ridge Plaza (orange line).
Finally it’s here:
the Issaquah Highlands commercial district. My family has waited nine long years for this expectation to materialize, others longer. Oh, I wasn’t waiting for big box stores or a 12-screen cinema, or two more Starbucks. Those are just icing on the cake. No, for me, it’s all about being able to walk to my grocery store. I am pinching myself with delight. How can we be so lucky to have these fantastic stores, restaurants and a state-of-the-art movie theater all within walking distance of our homes? Was it Luck? Not at all.
Grand Ridge Plaza includes what veteran Issaquah Highlanders refer to as Block 8, the shops and businesses east of 10th between Park and High Streets. Fuller Sears Architects was hired by Regency Centers to not only design many of the buildings that would comprise Grand Ridge Plaza, but also plan how the entire site would work as an urban center and public gathering place. Principal Bill Fuller opines, “Calthorpe’s paired one-way streets through a traditional grid system was a pivotal design contribution that allows Grand Ridge Plaza to work so well as a walkable village center.”
“As many people are already experiencing, it can be easier to actually walk from destination to destination than move your car. This was one of the goals of the closely spaced buildings, activated sidewalks and generous use of weather-protecting canopies. It’s gratifying to see it actually working.” - Bill Fuller, Fuller Sears Architects
Grand Ridge Plaza Fast Facts:
Architect: Seattle-based Fuller Sears Architects Official Ground Breaking: June 26, 2012 First new business opened: June 29, 2013 Number of new businesses in 2013-14: 34 Restaurants and Cafes: 14 Total Square Footage: Over 320,000 Square Feet Investment by Regency Centers in GRP: Over $90 Million Largest Regency shopping center in the NW: Grand Ridge Plaza Regency Center’s Claim to Fame: High-quality, grocery-anchored shopping centers Consulting to Port Blakely Communities, Peter Calthorpe reconfigured the original town center street plan from what could have been a virtual highway to Sammamish (left) to paired, one-way streets that slow traffic down and allow the commercial development to straddle the path (right). This creates a Main Street not unlike historic models, such as Ashland, OR.
When the first Development Agreement defining Issaquah Highlands was signed in 1996, the commercial component of this Urban Village was planned to be much smaller than it is today. In the late 2000s, High Streets was proposed, a two story, mixed-use town center to be located in the area where Dicks, Home Goods and Marshalls are now. But then the Great Recession knocked out Port Blakely’s partner and these plans. Port Blakely retooled, reinvented. And they found Regency Centers. As the economy began to recover Regency Centers leveraged its national clout and know-how to take humble hopes of a phased town center and powered through to a 100% fully leased project, unheard of in today’s economy. Grand Ridge Plaza was born. Centered along Highlands Drive’s “Main Street”, Grand Ridge Plaza combines privately owned, local businesses with national chains. Civilized Nature is D’Arcy Dent’s only store. Our Chinoise Café is Thoa Nguyen’s second café, the original located on Queen Anne. The RAM has 21 locations across the country, but is still family-owned and still based in Lakewood, WA. BevMo! on the other hand, a California concept begun in 1996 now has 146 stores in California, Arizona and Washington. Marshalls is owned by T.J. Maxx out of Massachusetts which has over 750 stores in the U.S. This range of store types provide us with great variety, but is also smart shopping center planning.
More about Regency Centers See November Connections interview with Regency Centers’ Senior Vice President, Senior Market Officer, Craig Ramey. See page 14 of this issue for grand opening speech by Larry Norton.
But for me, it’s all about the grocery store. I grew up in the Seattle area thinking Safeway was a local business, they offered such a neighborhood-focused shopping experience. But no. They were founded in Idaho in 1915 by M.B. Skaggs, who bought his father’s small store and quickly expanded it to a popular chain of stores serving small towns in Idaho. Safeway continued to grow from there. Safeway has over 1,400 stores throughout the west in US and Canada, but our store is special. Though they have built a half dozen stores to LEED specifications, ours will be LEED Silver Certified. Ours is the first to have electric car charging at its fueling station. And ours implemented what the corporation calls “Elite Features” that Safeway had conceptualized but had not implemented, until now.
continued on page 8