Poor economy slows Issaquah Highlands, Lincoln Square projects

The poor economy is making it difficult for Issaquah Highlands to attract retailers, and it also prompted Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman to delay expansion of Lincoln Square.

The Issaquah Press last week had this article explaining the problems the developer of the Highlands is having attracting retailers. The developer is asking the city to pony up $3m to help fund changes to the infrastructure to ease the cost of development.

The article explains:

In order to complete a long-planned business district in the Issaquah Highlands — and transform 14 acres into a cinema, shops, restaurants and more than 1,700 parking stalls — the developer behind the project said about $3 million in city funds is needed.

The developer, Florida-based Regency Centers, said the highlands project needs the dollars to complete roadwork and other infrastructure.

Regency and highlands developer Port Blakely Communities announced a deal in July to sell the land for a retail center, but before Regency completes the deal, company planners asked city leaders to commit public dollars to the project.

Regency is the prime landlord of the commercial centers in Sammamish.

Regency told the city, according to the newspaper:

Meanwhile, interest is low from prospective tenants for the proposed retail complex, as retailers remain reluctant to expand amid a difficult economy.

“We don’t have tenants for all of this space right now. We have some,” [Regency] said. “We have some demand, but it’s a challenge. It’s a very, very tough economic environment right now.”

Over in Bellevue, Freeman acquired the property immediately south of Lincoln Square that previously housed a supermarket. This was closed, with the intent to raze the buildings and expand the square. But because of the poor economy, these plans were put on hold and the supermarket was recently leased to another grocer.

These actions are significant for Sammamish. Our Town Center has been stalled since adoption of the enabling ordinances in January as the economy floundered and banks continue to withhold lending into new projects. Despite claims during the election that the Town Center plan is unworkable, the reality is other factors are driving the non-action.

Our city council’s economic develop committee is trying to figure ways to kick-start the Town Center. The council is considering setting aside $3m (which happens to be the same amount being asked of Issaquah by Regency) to apply toward infrastructure.

Considering the dwindling cash reserves of Sammamish, this proposal is going to come under scrutiny next year.

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