In 2015 Tom Acker approached me in an effort to raise money for the city of Mercer Island to acquire land in the Town Center to support MICA. His concept was simple, remove the consternation of building MICA in Mercerdale Park, acquire the group of properties Hines had assembled at the same price as Hines offered to pay, design a Plaza atmosphere placing MICA on top as an anchor tenant for the Town Center with parking below. He felt this was a solution for better retail, better Town Center design, and better parking.
The proposal made sense. It was creative, and most importantly — it was a wonderful solution to bridge the divide in the community and still fund an arts center on Mercer Island. I committed to Tom Acker that if the city and MICA were willing to look at the Hines property, I would donate a seven figure check for the benefit of the city and MICA to secure the land. The meeting did not stop there. Tom put me in touch with another donor who also was willing to donate and I approached several other possible donors as well. I personally talked with MICA representatives and to Mayor Bassett.
Unfortunately, the people who represented themselves as agents of MICA refused to look at alternative sites other than Mercerdale Park and the city did not pursue any further discussions outside of building in Mercerdale Park.
From my perspective, Tom Acker’s foreword, creative thinking and engagement of all stakeholders (remember in the citizens input study sessions, the top conclusion was a Plaza) is exactly what the city of Mercer Island needs. Two to three years laters, there has been no progress for MICA and MICA is now looking at the same solutions Tom Acker presented years ago.
Mercer Island needs people like Tom Acker at the helm. His willingness to challenge the existing system and think outside the box while listening to all Mercer Island residents will bring solutions that benefit all.