Citizen group gives Rowley parameters for growth

Residents will get a chance to learn more about the ongoing redevelopment plans for Central Issaquah when the Cascade Land Conservancy hosts a Community Stewards meeting in the Pickering Room at Issaquah City Hall Northwest on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Residents will get a chance to learn more about the ongoing redevelopment plans for Central Issaquah when the Cascade Land Conservancy hosts a Community Stewards meeting in the Pickering Room at Issaquah City Hall Northwest on Thursday, Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Central Issaquah Plan (CIP) Citizens Advisory Task Force Chair Joe Forkner will present the CIP draft plan and timeline, and representatives from Rowley Properties will discuss the proposed development agreement for the Rowley Center and Hyla Crossing properties.

The meeting will also give residents the opportunity to learn more about what Rowley’s Community Advisory Committee has done over the last several months. Last June, the city and Rowley formed an ad hoc citizen committee to provide input on the potential development agreement for 90 acres land in west Issaquah, surrounding the intersection of NW Gilman Boulevard and State Route 900.

The members of the committee, Bob Ittes, Stacy Goodman, Russell Joe, David Kappler, Karen Abel, Nina Milligan and John Johnson, were chosen based on their experience and commitment to the city. Over the summer and fall, the committee met six times, including the last meeting on Sept. 29. Their goal was to develop recommendations for how they envision the future of this section of central Issaquah.

“This is unlike any other development project,” said Rowley Properties CEO Kari Magill to the committee at their final meeting. “This agreement covers 30 years. What you recommend will be a compass for the future.”

The committee’s discussions focused on transforming suburbanism into sustainable urbanism, making Issaquah walkable, neighborly and adaptable, and keeping nature in mind when building.

The community advisory committee broke the development discussion into six main topics:

Neighborhood Character

The committee wants Rowley to create two distinct neighborhoods that use the hillside as a backdrop, draw on the natural landscape to set the tone, and contains buildings of varying size that have a strong relationship to the sidewalk and street edge.

Building Shape and Size

They established parameters for creating a livable neighborhood with buildings that vary in character and height, use separation between buildings to allow views of the hills, and include design controls to ensure privacy.


How residents get around in the Issaquah of the future was a big topic of conversation among the members. They want designs that make cars less necessary, provide travel choices like bikes, buses and walking, and improve pedestrian street crossings.


Future designs should contribute to the overall livability and sustainability of the neighborhood by creating public and semi-public gathering spaces, connecting Tibbett’s Greenway with Lake Sammamish and Cougar Mountain, and developing uses that generate neighborhood identity, like local businesses, daycare or a grocery store.


The group wants Rowley to create a strong sense of arrival to the western entry into Issaquah. They want to establish a gateway by improving the aesthetics of State Route 900 and visibility from Interstate 90.


Currently, 75 percent of developed land in central Issaquah is used for parking, and future development won’t be able to go underground because the water table is only five to seven feet below the surface. The committee’s solution to this issue was to design the area so that walking is more attractive and parking structures are camouflaged with storefronts. They also want to increase education about transit and cycling options.

These ideas may be a new approach to development for Issaquah, but many other communities throughout the world have successfully embraced these elements. One way the group hopes to ensure their vision is translated appropriately is by attaching photos of cities that inspired them. Some of the places they included were Rue Cler market street in Paris, the cobblestone walkways of Whistler, the visual appeal of Chinatown in San Francisco, and the pedestrian-friendly Santa Monica.

While much of the final meeting was geared toward finding consensus on previous discussions, one area the group still has concerns about is building heights.

“We feel like we’re being forced to put in tall buildings,” said Milligan, who is also on the Urban Village Development Commission. She and other members want the building heights to be specifically laid out in the agreement to keep the structures from competing with the hills. “This is a significant issue. Put this at the top of the list.”

The recommendations that come out of this advisory group are only for Rowley’s development agreement with the city. However the city’s Project Manager Keith Niven said they would likely influence other areas of the CIP.

The group has put forward some big ideas, but residents shouldn’t expect all the changes to happen within the next few years. There are many issues that still need to be addressed, including how any development would impact storm water run-off into Lake Sammamish.

“We’re at the very beginning of the policy level,” explained Rowley representative Kristi Tripple. “By having this foundation, it allows us to respond when appropriate.” Instead of doing a massive tear-down and rebuild, Rowley will do one project at a time. The Hyla Crossing section will likely be the first developed.