Microsoft has sold 63 acres they owned in the Issaquah Highlands to a group led by Polygon Home builders for $54 million. Microsoft had purchased the land in 1998 for $25.3 million with plans to build a 1.2 million square feet campus to help accommodate their expanding empire. Microsoft released a statement explaining they instead decided to expand their Redmond, Bellevue, and Seattle campuses instead of creating a new, separate campus. This can be viewed as a setback to the Issaquah community as adding a global tenant like Microsoft could mean billions to the local economy, as well as many new job opportunities. However, Polygon homes does have plans to build a multipurpose facility which will provide business opportunities as well as provide more high end housing options for the ever expanding Issaquah real estate market. Earlier this year Polygon Homes also purchased a 13.5 acre parcel of land near the Microsoft property for $9.3 million.
Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said the new Highlands developer hopes to break ground within a year on a project that would include multifamily housing and commercial uses that could be retail, offices or both. “We’re committed to working with a new owner on a quick and efficient development process,” Frisinger said. “It fulfills the largest vision of the Issaquah Highlands as a place where people can live, work and play in one location.” Issaquah city officials are working on developing an agreement with Polygon Homes in which they would have some say in how, and what is developed on the land site. Issaquah Economic Development Director Keith Niven said Polygon received 256 build-able units in the Microsoft land-purchase deal, but the city is willing to gift another 100 lots to Polygon in exchange for say in how the land is developed with an emphasis on keeping with the current aesthetic of the Issaquah Highlands along with building a high-tech college campus. “We’ve just been waiting for an office campus to happen there for a decade,” Niven said, describing Polygon’s willingness to cooperate with the city. “They were willing to work with us to have a new development agreement for the property. They’re willing to do this as a partner to the city.”
Issaquah is an up and coming residential and business city in the area and want to maximize their assets and provide their current economy and community a boost and not a downgrade. At a population of 32,633 people, Issaquah is still quite small, however it is growing at a rapid rate and should continue to grow with its relative proximity to Seattle, Bellevue, and Renton. Issaquah had a population increase of 191.1% since 2000, which is part of the reason Issaquah leaders are being so careful with growth and planning. The median household income in Issaquah is $84,828 and the median home value is $405,412. The median home value is a good gauge of the city health, which is well above the Washington State median home value of $256,300. Most hard data reveals that while Issaquah is still quite small, it is growing rapidly and at a value more than most in our state.
Issaquah Mayor-elect Fred Butler has many questions and concerns about how the land is used and developed but is encouraged by his conversations and interactions with Polygon Homes leaders. “I like the idea of a new development agreement,” Butler said. “I do know they want to get something under way next year, and that provides a little bit of leverage perhaps. This provides an opportunity to forge a public/private partnership, which could be beneficial to everyone.” Butler noted the recent agreement between the city and Swedish Hospital, including their willingness to assist public transit, as an example. “Sixty-three acres with 365 housing units, I can’t imagine what that would look like,” he said. “It would be pretty ugly. They’re wanting to actually be moving a plat through next year with the hope that they can be in the ground by the end of next summer. They don’t want the city to be disappointed in them for building out the whole property as residential.” It sounds as if both the city and the developer are on the same page as to how to develop the land so as to be as big a benefit to the economy and real estate market of Issaquah as possible, and that has to excite the people of Issaquah. As the excitement builds for city leaders as to the current direction of the use of the land, the disappointment of losing Microsoft as a tenant fades.