Washington’s Visionary Community Expansion

The master-planned, mixed-use community of Issaquah Highlands sets the bar high for multifaceted eco-conscious living.
By Lauren Felechner
Photography By Heartland, Jahna Smith, LEO House & Pulte Homes

With two decades in the making, Issaquah Highlands, a masterplanned, mixed-use community located in Issaquah, Wash., has been recognized as the Puget Sound region’s leading master-planned community to live, work and play. The community holds plans for 12 establishments within its 734 developed acreage, leaving more than 1,400 acres of the total available land untouched. Such developments include the award-winning, Sunset Walk neighborhood from Pulte Group and the soon-to-be-constructed Bellevue College coming next year.

Within the first five years of the development’s inception, Port Blakely Communities took this time to truly define its vision for Issaquah Highlands, not only within the company, but by involving the local community and securing the proper entitlements through a public-private development agreement. “The last 15 years have been spent crafting and implementing the master plan, developing infrastructure and transacting land sales to residential and commercial builders,” said Tim Diller, vice president of Real Estate Asset Management, Port Blakely Communities.

Anchored by commercial and retail spaces, the residential portions of Issaquah Highlands promote easy access and walkability with attractive plazas, convenient bike racks and opulent foliage. “Early in the development process, Port Blakely conducted research and found that the city of Issaquah, residents of Issaquah and prospective residents really valued walkability, high density and open space,” Diller said. Coinciding with this promotion is the advancement of sustainability throughout the community and having it remain as natural as possible. Alongside sidewalks and trails to encourage walking and biking, many of the residential buildings also incorporate green aspects such as a rainwater collection system on the roof of the YWCA Family Village. The BuiltGreencertified LEO House by Life Enrichment Options also integrates recycled materials such as sheath rock used in the construction process, zero-VOC paint, green appliances and the implementation of hard surfaces within their third, single-family, adult-family dwelling that received its certificate of occupancy in March 2012. The inspiration behind the LEO House, according to Jiff Searing, LEO vice president of Housing, Life Enrichment Options, was “need.” Searing explained, “At the end of the day, we are a pathway to independence and an advocate to young adults with disabilities.” The partnership between the LEO House and Port Blakely started with the developer’s income-qualified housing requirement that needed to be met, and with available lots, Life Enrichment Options decide to take Port Blakely up on their offer. The third residence from Life Enrichment Options is approximately 4,000 square feet that contains seven beds, a detached garage and an added basement — a feature that is the first within the entire master plan.

In line with the functional, nature-infused layout of the master plan, residents are never more than a quarter-mile walk from one of the 22 parks made available. “A green focus is engrained into the entire community.” Diller continued, “Today, the community serves as a national, award-winning model for master-planned community development. It has earned awards and accolades for BuiltGreen standards for residential construction; LEED-Gold status for its office building; sustainably-designed and modern medical center; and now is home to the nation’s first and perhaps only, Net- Zero, multifamily housing.”

Falling in line with the BuiltGreen standards is not only the aforementioned LEO House, but also Habitat for Humanity of East King County’s Magnolia Village. This neighborhood is a lowincome, self-help homeownership development that consists of 10 homes and five duplexes that were all completed in June 2012, ranging from 1,250 to 1,500 square feet. “Our goal was to have the affordable Habitat for Humanity homes fit seamlessly into the community without appearing to be low-income houses, which was successfully achieved,” said Mary Martin, resource development director, Habitat for Humanity of East King County.

Tom Granger, executive director, Habitat for Humanity of East King County added, “Issaquah Highlands is a new model of how to live in the Northwest … The affordable Habitat for Humanity homes fit right into this community because of their traditional architectural style with garages in the back and front porches near the sidewalks.”

Built on a vision to redefine community through a progressive, sustainable, urban village that enriches lives and creates lasting value for future generations, Issaquah Highlands has become a national model of not only a place to live but an example of a strong social fabric. “People wanted to live in a community that reminded them of how life used to be — when most Americans lived in small towns along quiet streets, waved to their neighbors on their front porches, and walked to the store, school and diner. A strong social fabric creates a healthy community, which is also a part of living green.” Diller stated.

Lauren Felechner is the features editor at Builder and Developer. She may be contacted at lfelechner@penpubinc.com.

Leave a Reply