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Design Commission hears PEAK proposal

After months of speculation and controversy, the Boys and Girls Club presented the initial design for the PEAK project to the Design Commission last Wednesday.

In the end, the commissioners asked Ed Weinstein, the architect of the proposed Boys and Girls’ Club youth facility, to make some important changes to the design before formally submitting the development permit application. The issues discussed by the commissioners included the visual aesthetic of the field house, the orientation of the structure, the types of vegetation surrounding the facility and pedestrian access from the high school.

PEAK is a proposal for the Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club to build a field house and teen center on school district land near Mercer Island High School.

Between the commissioners, there seemed to be a consensus that lining the west wall of the field house along 82nd Avenue S.E. with trees would not be enough to mitigate the massive structures impact on the street and neighborhood. The commissioners recommended breaking up the planned 176-foot long facade with art, banners or different types of siding material.

Initial plans were to obscure the length of the field house with layers of trees of different species. Simply covering the wall with vegetation however, did not satisfy the commissions.

“I’d like to see you give back to the neighborhood with some art on the large field house facade and by creating pedestrian paths to the facility,” commissioner Lucia Pirzio-Biroli said. “A lot more can be done than planting a hedge of Douglas Firs and evergreens,” she added.

Vice Chair Carla Weinheimer stressed that city code required the architects to break up the exterior design of the large wall, reminding Weinstein that larger buildings required a reduction in their apparent mass.

“I don’t see anywhere in the code that hiding the building with trees or anything else if there is a problem is OK,” Weinheimer said.

Since the meeting was an informal study session no formal action or recommendations were made by the commission.

In addition to breaking up the field house facade, Commissioners Pirzio-Biroli and Wittman said they wanted pedestrian improvements that encouraged the high schoolers to walk, not drive, to the facility.

“That campus is a mess,” she said. “It needs pedestrian improvements so kids don’t need to be driven there. Take a look at the pedestrian access, the kids need to be able to ride their bikes there, they just can’t be driven by the parents. It needs to be addressed how the kids will get there without being driven.”

Finally, Weinheimer suggested a re-evaluation of the orientation of the facility because its current design had “it’s back” to the street. She suggested flipping the structure so that the smaller club house and entry way addressed the street instead of the field house. Citing a city code about how buildings should address the street, Weinheimer suggested the fieldhouse should be in the back and the club in the front to fit the code.

“I feel like the building kind of is turning its back on the street,” Weinheimer said. “The street is not being addressed by the building.”

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