Redeveloping Pine Lake Center

As the Sammamish City Council proceeds with its review of the regulatory recommendations from the Planning Commission for the Town Center, the debate at the February 16 Council meeting included discussion about a sub-area plan for the Pine Lake (QFC) Center.

Council Members Mark Cross, John Curley, Tom Odell and Michele Petitti spoke in favor of sub-area planning for Pine Lake as the preferred next-step rather than re-opening the Town Center Plan to accommodate a Docket Request by some landowners of the SE Quadrant to triple the commercial development in their quadrant and increase residential density by a third.

The four council members saw the merits in exploring creation of a transit-oriented development over the park-and-ride (“A” in the photo below the fold) at Pine Lake as well as the prospect for redevelopment.

Mayor Don Gerend dismissed the prospect of redeveloping the Pine Lake Center with the observation that the Center’s current commercial owner of the QFC complex (area “D”) is receiving the highest rents in the suburbs (which may or may not be true, but they are high). Gerend said it will be “decades” before the owners will be willing to tear down the center for redevelopment. Gerend favored the SE Quadrant proposal in the Town Center.

This misses the point on several levels.

First, Cross and the other Council members focused on developing Area A as a mixed use, using the air rights over the park-and-ride. This prospect doesn’t require “decades” to pursue; it may be pursued as early as the City adopts plans to permit pursuit. A mixed use project built over the parking lot, combined with additional structured parking, could include offices and residential units. Or possibly the building could be on the entire perimeter of the lot with structured parking in the middle. There are creative possibilities, retaining the low-impact development (LID) approach used for the park-and-ride so that there isn’t any additional environmental impact to Pine Lake in the upper left hand corner of the photo.

Second, the owner of the children’s school (“B” in the photo) has previously submitted a request for upzoning and redevelopment. There is no “decades” delay to proceed with this prospect. If this is combined with the under-developed Area C in the photo, this presents some additional opportunities.

LID would be a part of the projects.

Third, rents may come down in Area D once the Town Center development is underway (which Gerend now doubts is viable in its present plan, even though he voted for this plan in 2008). In any event, redevelopment of Area D is a 20-year vision. By this time, the complex will be about 40-50 years old and may be ready to come down anyway due to age. If the complex is redeveloped into a major mixed-use project with retail, offices and residential, the owners can find greater income than they receive presently.

Finally, redevelopment of Area D, using LID, will actually improve the stormwater runoff for sensitive Pine Lake. Area D was built entirely with impervious surfaces. LID would allow for improved stormwater retention and treatment, recharging aquifers in the process.

In future columns, I will discuss redevelopment opportunities for the Sammamish Highlands (Safeway) area and the “Notch” near Trossachs.

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