Many residents of cities labeled “bedroom communities” often either inwardly cringe or outwardly denounce this moniker.
This term has a negative connotation, which likely stems from the fact that each of these cities often has its own chamber of commerce, retail and dining center, and many other successful businesses within its respective borders. This is definitely true for Sammamish, which has been trying to shrug off the bedroom community designation for quite some time.
Located on a plateau sharing borders with Issaquah, Bellevue, and Redmond, this 24-square-mile city falls within the bounds to qualify as such a community. Of the more than 61,000 individuals living in Sammamish, more than 21,900 are workers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of those, more than 70 percent commute outside city limits on a regular basis.
This may be due, in part, to a lack of jobs in the city. When compared to surrounding cities, Sammamish has the lowest jobs-to-housing ratio in the area, with .4 jobs for every Sammamish dwelling, according to a 2016 survey by the Puget Sound Regional Council. Comparatively, nearby Redmond boasts 3.3 jobs per dwelling, while King County’s average hovers around 1.3.
Despite this, Sammamish Planning Manager Kellye Hilde said the city is ready for something bigger.
“We are definitely under the umbrella of a bedroom community, but I feel like we are kind of on the brink,” she said. “(Residents are) wanting to see more commercial and office development here in Sammamish. And a lot of (that interest) is in response to the traffic issues the whole region is experiencing.”
A recent community survey conducted by the City of Sammamish revealed that almost 50 percent of residents said the biggest challenge facing economic growth is, in fact, traffic. This conundrum is most evident during peak times of the day.
To combat this, some Sammamish residents — those whose employers will allow it — work from home to avoid roadways. Meanwhile, others either begin home-based businesses or relocate their businesses to their homes. The Eastside is home to many businesses that operate from within a residence, and Sammamish home-based businesses appear to be more the norm than the exception.
The Sammamish Chamber of Commerce estimates there are approximately 4,000 home-based businesses in the city. These businesses run the gamut from tech startups to artists to brewers.
Another solution to the traffic problem is to get more residents working within the city in one of its modestly-sized commercial districts.
Sammamish Chamber of Commerce CEO Deb Sogge said Sammamish Village, located on 228th Avenue Southeast and within Sammamish Town Center, has been a catalyst for business growth over the last year.
Built by Abbott Construction and managed by Seattle-based TRF Pacific, Sammamish Village wrapped up construction in 2017 and spent most of 2018 filling vacancies. The nine-building complex is more than 90 percent occupied with tenants like T-Mobile, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Chipotle, PetSmart, Zeeks Pizza, Shapes Fitness for Women, Nurture Kids Dentistry, Allegro Pediatrics, a grandiose Metropolitan Market, and more.
Nearby, the newly constructed Sky Sammamish multifamily housing project recently completed construction. As tenants begin to lease the apartments above, TRF Pacific is focused on signing tenants in the commercial space below.
Plans to initiate another phase of construction within Sammamish Town Center would add more commercial space to stimulate further business growth within the city. However, an October 2017 citywide emergency moratorium halted new construction while the city worked toward developing a transportation master plan to alleviate its traffic woes.
This moratorium has two camps: residents who turned up at city council meetings to speak in favor of keeping it going in order to reduce new cars on the road, and business leaders who spoke in opposition to the moratorium in favor of economic growth.
So, with a town divided, what does the future hold for Sammamish?
Chamber CEO Sogge predicts 2019 will be a slow year for Sammamish business development due to the moratorium. She said the chamber intends on promoting current businesses within the city. “Most of our attention will be on that because we probably are not going to have as many new businesses coming in,” she said.
Long-term, Planning Manager Hilde said she is hopeful for a new Sound Transit park-and-ride facility, the possibility of a designated economic development department within the city, and maybe even Sound Transit light rail service to Sammamish.
“We are in the middle of a transformation up here on the plateau,” Hilde said. “(The way forward is) figuring out what our identity is and how we support our community with the economic development that actually makes sense for Sammamish.”