City moves to secure financing for thrift shop expansion

By Celina Kareiva

Mercer Island’s Youth and Family Services Thrift store will move forward with remodel and expansion plans after a traffic study wrapped the week before last.

YFS director Cynthia Goodwin said the issue of traffic has been afforded particular attention as the project advances. The study, which ran from Monday, Oct. 14 through Friday, Oct. 18, will help determine traffic patterns and alleviate any potential issues that could arise during and from renovation. Results have not yet published.

“People felt like there was a lot of traffic in the area, so we wanted to determine if that was coming from [the shop],” said Goodwin, who added that “We’re kind of in the same footprint. It’s our donations [area] and interior that will be built up.”

The thrift store already brings in more than $1 million annually and plans to expand in part to generate more money for Mercer Island’s Youth and Family Services department. Though the design is far from complete, the remodel is intended to make drop-off donations easier, improve traffic flow in and out of the store and on S.E. 34th Street, and make small aesthetic upgrades to the front of the building, as well as the amount of floor space available. Though the project is still in its early stages, Goodwin emphasized the importance of “being good neighbors,” given the shop’s location in residential Mercerdale.

Comments from the two open houses on Aug. 13 and 28 included such concerns as whether traffic problems would be alleviated by more parking, the impact of the stores presence on property values and safety for the neighborhood’s families. Islanders suggested installing traffic circles and moving both the donation drop-off and parking entrance to 78th Avenue S.E., where about sixty cars make donations daily.

Project funding will crystallize at the Nov. 18 City Council meeting, when staff will ask to authorize the sale of bonds to fund the expansion and remodel. The thrift store will pay back those bonds, says Goodwin, much like a mortgage. Glenn Boettcher, the city’s director of maintenance, said that staff will also ask at the Nov. 18 meeting to appropriate funds to hire the architect and move forward with project design.

Though the remodel is still in its early stages, an August report indicates a price tag of $1.7 million, if a multi-purpose room is included in the final design. All but $400,000 of that cost would be paid for by bonds. The expansion is expected to eventually add an annual $450,000 in shop revenue, slightly less than the $650,000 originally anticipated.

“Two things that are high on our list,” said Goodwin, “are being a good neighbor and not making congestion any worse than it is.”

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