Grand Ridge's Guiding Principles

Since even "master-planned communities" evolve as needs change, opportunities arise, and different actors participate, a clear set of organizing principles needed to be established. These "Guiding Principles" were created to communicate the foundations for building of the community and the standards by which its evolution will be measured. Approval of the whole project hinged upon the ability of Port Blakely, the City of Issaquah, and King County to reach agreement. It is much easier for the stakeholders involved with the process to come to a consensus when organizing principles have been set. Matanovich uses the analogy of jazz music, "Once the theme is set for the musicians, there can be improvisation." The principles will ensure that the vision ultimately becomes a reality.

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Grand Ridge Development

With impressive growth projected in the area east of Seattle, there are terrific opportunities for developers. With unprecedented growth, however, comes increasing concern and controversy about how to preserve the unique character and natural heritage of our area. Port Blakely Communities is leading with an innovative approach by turning over to King County and the City of Issaquah 1,400 acres for use as permanent open space.

Urban Village

It is unusual for a developer to give up a sizeable piece of property. In this case, the developer also hopes to create a sustainable community, called Grand Ridge, that will provide for a thriving, efficient urban village that cares for and preserves the natural environment for both present and future generations. Port Blakely visualizes a new type of suburban community, one that will integrate the best aspects of new mainstream urban designs to bring people closer together. Says Judd Kirk, President of Port Blakely, "If there are no places for people to interact, you don't get the same kind of community. If you provide the amenities that people need, they'll want to live there."

To facilitate the planning process, Port Blakely hired artist and community consultant Milenko Matanovic, the founder and director of the Pomegranate Center, a non-profit community organization in Issaquah, Washington. Matanovic has among his credits a project called Pickering Park Place in Issaquah, done in collaboration with California artist and architect James Hubbell. The park, which was completed in 1994, has successfully integrated itself into a commercial/retail park and includes an amphitheater for 400 people, an entryway with sandblasted images depicting the site's history, and a plaza with benches and a fountain. Matanovic helped facilitate the creation of a set of "Guiding Principles" for planning of Port Blakely's Grand Ridge.

Integrated Complexities

Some of the key concepts featured in the design of Grand Ridge echo concepts found in neotraditional urban planning and include: a variety of architectural styles, mixed zoning, and plenty of centralized public meeting spaces. Civic building will play a prominent role. Streets will follow a grid system to decentralize traffic, and on-street parking will help slow it down. The design will also encourage foot and bicycle traffic. And these "integrated complexities," as Matanovic refers to them, will create new opportunities for smaller and more innovative builders to contribute to the project.

Green Building Program

Although still in the development phase, Port Blakely plans to incorporate a "Green Building" program. This will be a voluntary accreditation program organized into separate elements, such as water conservation, waste transport, recycled material content, and environmentally safe construction materials. Builders will receive awards for incorporating a certain number of these design elements into their projects. The program will be designed to promote environmentally responsible construction techniques and reward innovative builders. Already, the "Green Building" concept has generated enough interest from contractors to make the concept a reality.

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Construction Under Way

Construction of utilities for the first phase of construction began in the summer of 1996, and within five years, about 540 residences and 300,000 square feet of commercial and retail space will be built. The middle price market for homes is targeted in the $150,000 - $300,000 range. About 30 percent of the residential units will be "affordable" housing while 10 percent will be "high-end" housing. Nearly 7,000 people will call Grand Ridge home, and the development will employ just as many people in over 3 million square feet of commercial and retail space.

A Richer Future

Port Blakely has committed to employing the urban village concept for Grand Ridge and has decided against the less-expensive alternative of constructing a subdivision of five acre estates. Although this sort of community may not appeal to everyone, Port Blakely believes that in the long run, Grand Ridge will attract residents in search of an intimate and thriving community where homes, offices, and shops are clustered together and surrounded by permanent natural space.

The Principles

1.- Sustainability and stewardship: to build a sustainable and sustaining community, providing for a thriving, efficient human community that cares for and preserves the natural environment for ourselves and future generations.

2.- Pedestrian-friendly design: to establish a community that encourages walking, bicycling and transit use.

3.- Integrated diversity: to accommodate a diversity of incomes, household makeup, lifestyles, activities, land uses, public and private spaces and architectural expressions in an integrated mix that enhances the richness of people's lives.

4.- Community values: create a very sociable public realm that enhances the community life of children, adults and seniors and promotes common values and shared responsibilities.

5.- Civic celebration and Community Amenities: to give special prominence, exposure, and architectural quality to civic and community spaces.

6.- Local identity: to give Grand Ridge a unique and memorable identity as a neighborhood district of the City of Issaquah.

7.- Self-sufficiency and Regional Contribution: to create a complete community that accommodates living, working, learning, playing, and nurturing while contributing to the richness, opportunity, and quality of life of the region.

8.- Vitality, flexibility, and collaboration: to grow a vital and economically viable community where private business, government, citizens, and Grand Ridge community members collaborate to respond to the issues and future needs.

9.- Economy and Serviceability: to economically produce safe, efficiently maintained, and efficiently serviced public infrastructure.