Town Center building wins big

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter A dining area in one of the units in Island Market Square. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter A dining area in one of the units in Island Market Square.
— image credit:

Mercer Island’s first large Town Center development, Island Market Square, won grand acknowledgments for a prestigious award among developers and architects on Thursday. In addition, the builders of the Community Center at Mercer View received honors for its design at the Civic Design Awards in Seattle a couple of weeks ago.

Out of 560 entries worldwide, Island Square was honored as the Best Mid-to-High Rise Apartment Project of the year. The 251,342-square-foot building was also nominated as the Attached Urban Residential Project of the Year.

Recognized for the caliber and complexity of its design and aesthetic qualities, Island Square stood out among other developments in 14 western United States and several developments constructed overseas in an international category.

“For architects, this is the top, top deal,” said Michael Christ, the owner and developer of Island Square. “To them, this is their Emmy. Just being nominated is a giant accolade.”

Mithun Architects, who designed Island Square, was also nominated in several additional categories for a project in Seattle. Mithun has also designed the architecture of the newest mix-use project currently under review by the city, the 5-story, 165,000 square foot development at the old Safeway.

Another local project beat Island Square in the Urban Residential Project of the Year category. The 2200 in Seattle, Vulcan Properties’ new building at the corner of Westlake Avenue and Denny Way was chosen over Island Square along with several other nominated developments. Island resident and billionaire Paul Allen owns Vulcan Properties, which is also developing several other buildings in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

“It’s remarkable that our market, with this and the Vulcan project being recognized for good design, is bringing such quality buildings to our region,” Christ said.

A SECO Development building has never been nominated for or won a Gold Nugget Award, Christ said, but Island Square won the Best Re-use of Land award in 2006 in the Multifamily Executive Awards.

In addition to the honors for private development on the Island, the CCMV was one of nine local public buildings that earned a Civic Design Award for superior design.

The Civic Design Awards program identifies public projects that are constructed with excellent design. The awards are given to buildings that exemplify their particular type of public space.

“The design takes advantage of views of the lake and Cascade Mountains and a large operable window in the multipurpose room extends the space,” one of the juror’s statements reads. “The gym is awash with natural light and windows at the staircase and lobby provide transparency to activities within the building. Attention to detail, from the library, artful railings, and entry canopy, provides a richness that will be appreciated by the community for many years.”

The jurors for this year’s awards were state university architectural department chairs. From the University of Washington, Alex Anderson, Ph.D., is the assistant chair and an associate professor in the department of architecture. Another judge, Gregory Kessler, is an architect, and the director at the School of Architecture & Construction Management at Washington State University. The final judge was Tom Henderson, who serves on the state board for community and technical colleges.

Design awards up close:

Island Market Square

Mercer Island, Wash.

Builder: Swinterton Buildings

Developer:SECO Development Inc.

Architect: Mithun

Community Center at Mercerview

Mercer Island, Wash.

Firm: The Miller/Hull Partnership

Agency: City of Mercer Island

Jury Comments: “This 43,000 square foot community center situated in a city park on Mercer Island packs a lot of program into a well organized and functional structure. Large covered outdoor areas and overhangs provide shading and protected porches and outdoor seating for civic events, extend the usefulness of the building. The circulation area is enlarged to provide an art gallery. Natural light floods the building and operable windows provide excellent ventilation.”

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