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October 22, 2013 at 7:16 AM
Is there a place for planned communities like the Issaquah Highlands?
The picture on the left illustrates best the lure of the Issaquah Highlands, a master-planned community featured in the Seattle Times Sunday. Dwellers want the retail amenities found in urban centers like Seattle but they also want to be close by trails for their mountain bikes.
The Times article called it one of King County’s largest urban villages. And likely its last. The story notes: “With large tracts of close-in land a thing of the past, and with local governments attempting to direct growth into existing city centers, there won’t be any replicas of the Issaquah Highlands in King County.”
Home sales in master-planned communities plummeted along with homes in general housing stocks. This New York Times article in 2011 found that mortgage crisis hit hard those communities far outside city centers, places demographers and sociologists refer to as exurbs. But many master-planned communities held steady because they tended to offer more to the few who were buying, including a broad range of housing types – including smaller, affordable homes. As this Builder magazine piece noted, planned communities were more likely to include ”lifestyle anchors that buyers consider vital, such as good schools, parks, walking trails, community pools, town centers, playgrounds, sports, and other organized activities.”
Washington state’s population in 2030 is projected to be 8.3 million, a 29 percent increase in three decades, according to the state Department of Transportation. Three counties, King, Pierce and Snohomish will have the largest population increases and the largest total number of residents. Many of these residents will be families looking to grow and stretch out. For various reasons, including cost, Seattle will not be their choice. Communities like the Highlands will be waiting.