2013: A community poised on the cusp of change

Jane McCormmach of Mercer Island and her grandchildren, Ariya Shendure, 5, right, and Daniel Shendure, 4, both of Seattle, await the start of the 2013 Summer Celebration Grand Parade last July. - Matt Brashears / Special to the Reporter
Jane McCormmach of Mercer Island and her grandchildren, Ariya Shendure, 5, right, and Daniel Shendure, 4, both of Seattle, await the start of the 2013 Summer Celebration Grand Parade last July.
— image credit: Matt Brashears / Special to the Reporter


On New Years Day 2013, Islanders had no idea what was in store as tolling on SR-520 entered its second year.

But in just days, the Washington State Department of Transportation verified what had been brewing for months;  that I-90 would also be tolled — and tolled in part to pay to finish SR-520.

The agency set up meetings to talk with Island residents. A series of raucous meetings attended by angry and upset Islanders, begins.

An investment group led by actor Patrick Dempsey, buys the Island-owned Tully’s coffee chain. He later sells his shares after a dispute with a partner.

City Manager Rich Conrad announces that he would retire at year’s end after 32 years with the city.

Sound Publishing, Inc., the owner of the Mercer Island Reporter and 40 other print and on-line publications in Washington state, buys The Seattle Weekly.

The City of Mercer Island receives a grant for $30,000 From Puget Sound Energy after hundreds of Island residents sign up for the PSE’s Green Power program.

Mercer Island police say $25,000 worth of goods are stolen from a vehicle as the result of a car prowl.

The Mercer Island School District continues to work toward a revised bond issue to rebuild and expand school facilities.

Island-based Dollar Development announces it will build a hotel adjacent to the Mercer Apartments in the Town Center. The hotel would be near  the site of the old Travelodge that was torn down in January 2008.

At year’s end, that plan is on hold.


An I-90 tolling meeting brings hundreds of Islanders to the Community Center. The police stand by. City Council meetings are full and many come to tell the Council that tolls would be grossly unfair and intolerable to Islanders. Many write to the Mercer Island Reporter, saying the imposition of tolling would be disastrous.

Hennie McPennie, a new children’s shoe store, opens in the Mercer Island Shopping Center on 78th Avenue S.E.

The Mercer Island School District  weighs in on how much tolls would cost the district for teachers and staff who live off Island.

A pipe breaks at May Wayte Pool just before a major high school swim meet is scheduled. The break closes the building for two days.

The City Council readies a plan of attack to fight tolling on I-90. The Council votes on an initial budget of $275,000.

The school board moves forward on a slimmed-down bond issue to send to voters to rebuild Island schools to meet overcrowding.

Islander, former city mayor, regional activist and leader, Aubrey Davis dies just three days after he appears at the Mercer Island Youth & Family Services Giving from the Heart Breakfast. To accommodate the large crowds expected, services are set for the Paramount Theatre in Seattle in May.

A limo on its way to pick up an Island man and take him to the airport, goes over the edge of the steep driveway at the South-end. The car flips over near the lake. Reusing treatment at the scene by firefighters, the driver walks away. A tug with a hoist removes limo from waterfront a month later.

A new coffee shop, Franky and Dom’s, opens at the foot of S.E. 24th Street Hill.

The fight against tolling begins to focus on the need for WSDOT to conduct a full environmental impact statement in order to properly document the impact of tolling on Islanders, Island employers and businesses.


The New Legacy project at the Hudesman property, the site of the Islander restaurant and True Value Hardware, is approved to go to five stories.

The City Council hires the law firm of K & L Gates to lead the effort to fight tolling on I-90.

Beloved and inspirational Islander Middle School special education student Jim Holt  dies at 16.  Hundreds attend his funeral at Mercer Island Presbyterian Church.

A half-million dollars in jewelry is stolen from a salesman’s car when he stops at the Island Crust Cafe for a bite to eat. A large truck blocks his view of his car from the restaurant for 25 minutes. When he returns to his car, the jewelry cases are gone.

Island House residents dance with abandon in a video promoting life at their residence.

Facing eviction from the Hudesman property which is about to be torn down, True Value Hardware finds a new home next to Walgreens.

More than 3,600 runners and walkers sign up for to raise money and awareness for colon cancer. Five hundred Islanders take part.

The long-vacant utility land on first hill is sold. The city had considered building affordable housing units there, but abandoned the idea after objections from neighbors. The city later put the land up for sale to any buyer.


The Mercer Island School District announces a program to provide 1,600 iPads to students.

Seattle attorney Benson Wong announces he will run for the open city council Pos. 6. Incumbent Mike Grady decided not to run for another term.

On April 9, Seafair announced that the U.S. Navy Blue Angels would not appear at Seafair in August. Islanders weep.

Celebrated regional artist and Holocaust survivor, Maria Frank Abrams, 88, dies.

The new owners of Alpenland decide to call it quits less than a year after they the business from long time owners Linda and Toni Gadola, who bought the deli in 1997.

Islander Rich Erwin announces that he too will run for City Council Pos. 6.

A thief who grabbed a bottle of vodka from Albertsons and took off down the street was no match for a police dog and his handler from Redmond.

City Council incumbent Dan Grausz announces he will run again for his seat.


The newly renovated VFW Hall becomes a television set for the ‘Deadliest Catch’ reality show.

The City Council votes to rename the ‘Park on the Lid’ for Aubrey Davis. A ceremony to re-dedicate the park and christen a new sign to honor Davis and his work on behalf of the city and the region, for reining in the size, scope and impact on Interstate-90 is held during Summer Celebration in July.

A sculpture by a Mercer Island artist appears on the television show, Grimm.

A large gravel truck hauling a trailer overturns on East Mercer Way.

Islander and former King County assessor and champion of local taxpayers, Harley Hoppe dies.

Three long-time Island businesses close: Mercer Island printing closed after 25 years, Tony Maronis quit their location suddenly and combined with a Factoria location and ‘What to Wear’ also closed. The Pacific Northwest Ticket service moved to a location on S.E. 36th Street.


In June, a  family by the high school that raises heirloom chickens in their backyard, places a sign out on the street to sell eggs.

Sound Transit officials and staff show Islanders what a light rail station will look like across the center lanes between 77th and 80th Avenues S.E.

Teacher, trainer, cyclist and outdoor enthusiast Fran Call is named Mercer Island Citizen of the Year.

Islander Middle School students makes solar ovens and tests them outside.

Mercer Island High School holds its 56th Commencement exercises. There are five valedictorians in the Class of 2013 — all young women.

The city dedicates a new solar array at the Mercer Island Community and Events Center. The device was paid for by a grant from Puget Sound Energy, awarded to the city after enrollment of Island residents in the company’s green power program increased by half.

The Islander restaurant readies to move into its new digs at the Aviara Development next door on 76th Ave S.E. They are the last business remaining at the Hudesman property that was about to be demolished for the new Legacy mixed-use project. Their move is delayed by a few weeks. The demolition is yet to occur.

Letters about tolling and candidates for City Council fill the pages of the Mercer Island Reporter.

On Sept. 26, the Mercer Island School District Board of directors approved a $98.8 million bond issue to build a fourth elementary school and rebuild other Island schools to go to the ballot in February 2014.

An ordinance to ban the use of plastic shopping bags at local retailers is set for a vote.

Another tolling meeting with transportation officials was held at Mercer Island High School. Again, Islanders told WSDOT staff that tolling would be unfair and a burden on Islanders.


The Metropolitan King County Council voted to elect Mercer Island City Councilmember Tana Senn to represent the 41st Legislative District of Washington state and King County in Olympia. Senn, 42, replaces former state representative Marcie Maxwell, who resigned her seat in July.

Islander Anthony Flacco is the co-author of ‘Impossible Odds’ that reached no. 13 on the New York Times bestseller.

Eleven from Mercer Island High school are named 2014 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

The Mercer Island Historical Society publishes, Mercer Island History; from Haunted Wilderness to Coveted Community, by Jane Meyer Brahm. It is an updated and much-expanded version of an earlier history book, Mercer Island Heritage by Judy Gellatly.


City planners say that given the present zoning and the proximity of schools and daycare to commercial areas, there is no place on the Island for a business to grow or sell marijuana.

The new preschool playground at Luther Burbank opens.

The deer-shaped topiary trees at the former ‘Park on the Lid’ at the base of S.E. 24th Street, were found to be diseased and were taken down. The Arts Council which purchased the trees from the one percent for arts fund, decided not to replace them.

The city’s ‘Dashboard Report’ a survey that asks Islanders how they feel about city services from streets to emergency services and more, reveals most Islanders are happy with city services provided here. The city received ‘very good’ ratings, the highest possible rating on 20 out of 35 indicators rated by Islanders in the telephone survey.

Mercer Island Youth and Family Services announces that the number of Islanders who use the YFS food bank has doubled.

Long time car mechanic, hero to drivers and gardener, Marty Ulrich, Sr. dies. Ulrich and his family have owned and operated the gas station at the corner of 77th Avenue S.E. and the Sunset Highway since 1964.

The Grandmothers against Gun Violence and the Mothers Demand Action for Gun Sense in America deliver 250,000 signatures  to place I-594  on the ballot in 2014 if the state Legislators do not pass a similar bill.  The measure would ensure that background checks would be conducted on all gun purchasers.

The Washington state PTA names gun violence as their top issue for education.

An Island man wins a Lotto Jackpot of $3.2 million from a ticket he purchased at the Mercer Island Jackson’s store. He said he was going to take his family out for dinner and buy a new (used) car.

Expansion plans for the Mercer Island Thrift store move ahead. The city  conducts a traffic study on the streets adjacent to the shop.

Campaign money stacks up as the election nears. The five city council candidates running for three slots, raised more than $90,000 according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Nearly 700 vehicles came to the City’s annual fall recycling collection event carrying a total of 88,257 pounds of discarded material. Attendees donated 1,100 pounds of items for the YFS Food Pantry, and $2,203 in cash. An additional 102 vehicles attended the rainbarrel sale at City Hall.


Winners in the Nov. 5 General election are Dan Grausz, Pos. 2 and Benson Wong Pos. 4. Tana Senn, running unopposed, retains her seat as do School Board Directors, Adair Dingle and Dave Myerson.

Just half of all eligible Island voters cast their ballot in the Nov. 5 general election, a percentage slightly higher than the county as a whole.  216 people voted for write-in candidates in the City Council races.

The City Council votes for more money to pay for the fight against tolling. The money is coming from the city’s contingency fund.

The library finds temporary quarters at the Lutheran Church for the remodeling set for next year,  but sets no date to move.

On Halloween, a late afternoon truck fire on the East Channel Bridge of I-90 fouls traffic for hours after shooting a column of black smoke and debris over the bridge and the lake.

Islander junior Carl Bell who works at the North end QFC placed in the top three grocery baggers in the state in a contest sponsored by the National Grocers association. Edgar Silverio, a postal worker who began delivering mail on Mercer Island in 1983, was the guest of honor at a retirement party held for him at Covenant Shores.

Island Books celebrates its 40th anniversary.

A completely new restaurant Island Broiler takes the place of Alpenland on 78th Avenue S.E.

A survey is mailed out to Islanders by WSDOT regarding when and how often they drive on and off the Island.

A new dragon play structure crafted by Montana artist Kenton Pies, to replace the original creature built  in 1965, is greeted with great excitement when it is installed at Island Crest Park.

A coalition of Washington State senators announce a $12.3 billion dollar gas tax to pay to complete SR-520. If passed by the state Legislature, it could eliminate the need for tolling I-90. Late on Dec. 19, sponsors report that the effort failed this round.

A Bellevue man, driving 150 mph eastbound on I-90 around midnight on Nov. 8, veers on to Mercer Island via Island Crest Way and crashes into a building at the corner of S.E. 30th Street and Island Crest Way. He is later arrested.

City Council readies a plastic bag ban.

True Value holds a gala reopening at its new location next to Walgreens. Gardener Ciscoe Morris is on hand to dedicate the new store.

Island theater boosters formally announce a campaign to raise money and awareness of their plans to build a Mercer Island Performing arts Center that would house Youth Theatre Northwest and host other performing arts groups at a new location next to Bicenntenial Park, at the old recycling center site.

A mixed-use project proposed for the block surrounding the Seven Star Restaurant, the State Farm Insurance office and the former ticket business on S.E. 29th street, is in the works.

Mercer Island Schools Band Boosters bring in $40,000 at a gala at the Mercer Island Community and Events Center.

Jennifer George Heilman opens a box that was supposed to hold her wedding gown preserved by a local dry cleaner in 1983. But the gown inside the box is not hers.


218 Mercer Island High School students or more than 15 percent of the student body, participate in heart screenings at Mercer Island High School.

The Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce announces that the Mercer Island Farmer’s Market is the 2013 Business of the Year.

Snow blankets the Island on Dec. 20, shutting schools, delighting Island children who rush out to play in the snow.


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