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August 25, 2022
We founded Innovation Realty Partners to do something innovative: build communities of the future. We believe in communities where residents can live and thrive in the neighborly buzz of a family-friendly hometown. We have been working for seven years to make this dream a reality in Sammamish.
Today, we all seek a sense of unity and connection. It is more than simply making a living it is living. We can contribute to the common good by creating vibrant environments where people can thrive. We can engage with one another in clean, open spaces where our young adults long to remain well after their generation typically moves away, and where our grandparents can stay within close proximity to affordable housing, seniors’ activities, shops, and nature. In this era of uncertainty and division, we are determined to prepare places for the future with serious thought, vision, technological innovation and, above all, heart.
In 2014, we discovered the perfect opportunity to bring this vision to life. We learned about Sammamish’s forward-thinking and ambitious plan, adopted in 2008, to create a mixed-use community known as Sammamish Town Center in the heart of the city. After reading and understanding the grand plans for its Town Center, we realized the city needed a committed private partner to bring this to fruition, starting with the responsibility of acquiring the land and then designing and building the neighborhood we all envisioned. We were encouraged that the town embraced its motto of “Building a Community Together.” It seemed a perfect alignment with our company’s mission to “leave the land better than we found it.”
Our enthusiasm was boosted when learning Forbes magazine, in 2012, in its census of “The Friendliest Place to Live in America” (which surveys 500 towns with populations under 125,000) voted Sammamish No. 1. WalletHub similarly voted Sammamish as the No. 1 small city in the United States in 2020 and 2021.
We understand the positive impact we can make in Sammamish by helping to balance competing interests. We do this, as imagined in the city’s Town Center Plan, by providing local shopping, dining, and entertainment in combination with housing options for young adults, residents across the income spectrum, and senior citizens.
When we became involved, dozens of different property owners owned the land the city identified for a town center. We needed to aggregate these different properties into one cohesive and coordinated site to make the city’s unique growth plan possible.
The scope and scale of the land aggregation cannot be understated in today’s market of scarce land. Over five years, with the help of many, we acquired approximately 90 acres of contiguous and properly zoned land to embark on a journey to build tomorrow’s community. Once we neared completion of our land gathering, we began to implement the city’s long-held intentions expressed in its governing laws and planning documents. The Town Center’s planned capacity is 600,000 square feet of commercial development and approximately 2,000 housing units. This represents, as initial plans called for, “a large majority of the City’s overall capacity for commercial and residential development.”
What an incredible opportunity to do good together. This community will be accessible to automobiles but committed to a “park-once” environment, where people park and walk from retailers to restaurants to the public gathering places out of the cars and onto foot, with tree-lined pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and streets. In the midst of traditional suburbia, the options for the future will expand to include new and different neighborhoods, transit options, housing choices, public open spaces, and civic uses.
Concentrated growth in a compact location creates the density needed to address tomorrow’s challenges, preserves the characteristics of existing neighborhoods (instead of sprawling throughout Sammamish), and most importantly protects the environment. Higher-density development generates less traffic than low-density development per unit; it makes walking and public transit more feasible and creates opportunities for multi-use parking. Residents of low-density single-family communities tend to have two or more cars per household; residents of high-density apartments and condominiums tend to have only one car per household. A new transit center would thus be justified, dramatically reducing traffic flow by eliminating many commutes to Bellevue, Redmond, Seattle, Issaquah, and other employment destinations. One Sammamish resident told us it takes her two hours each way to reach her classes at the University of Washington. Together, we hope to eliminate that incomprehensible transit burden.
During the journey to make this a reality, we continue to be guided by an image of the future:
• A place where familiar faces greet one another.
• A “park-once” environment where people park and walk from retail uses to restaurants to the public gathering places.
• A central pedestrian-friendly hub with trees, sidewalks, parks, and water features; where families stroll, and children play in the safety and comfort of a small town.
• All integrated with housing choices and transit options.
Now is the time to make this long overdue Town Center a reality a place where we are truly building community together.
Matthew Samwick is founder and president of Innovation Realty Partners LLC.