Several Islanders rejoiced after the Mercer Island City Council regular meeting on April 16, when the council directed city staff to terminate the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) allowing development in Mercerdale Park.
The mutual termination of the MOU was unanimously initiated by the council during the informal study session prior to their regular meeting. City manager Julie Underwood will come back to the council with the official termination at a future council meeting.
“[To] the community, Mercerdale Park has been a hot issue,” Councilmember Benson Wong said. “So I think taking it off the table given how things have changed [and] the direction we are now heading, [is] a good thing for the community, and I appreciate MICA (the Mercer Island Center for the Arts) stepping forward and recognizing that as well.”
The study session furthered the commuter parking and mixed-use development project that aims to offset some of the impacts of Sound Transit’s East Link extension. MICA will potentially be housed by the proposed mixed-use building that will occupy the former Tully’s Coffee location.
Several locals were excited at council’s decision to work with MICA and seek termination of the previous MOU that had potential to develop a site within Mercerdale Park.
An MOU is not legally binding — it is a formal document that declares an agreed intent between two parties that will eventually move forward with a contract.
Meg Lippert and Peter Struck, co-chairs of Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks, submitted a joint letter to the Reporter praising the decision they had been waiting for since the MOU was established in 2016.
“The decision was long overdue — we wrote a Letter to the Editor of the [Mercer Island Reporter] asking that the MOU be torn up as MICA was pivoting to a different location,” Struck said. “Mercerdale Park is the only park that provides a bit of greenery, peace and quiet, gathering space and play space in the Town Center, and it’s vital to maintain that precious open space from being over-developed.”
Underwood and city staff are currently working with the city attorney to bring the official decision to terminate the MOU back to council at a later council meeting.
Tentatively, city staff will come back to the council on May 21 with a better timeline for the overall project, its groundbreaking and the eventual MOU termination.
“Thanks to Julie (Underwood) because this is like the most complex deal ever — ou have a nonprofit, you have a developer, you have a seller that is a multi-party group, and then you have one of the largest companies on the planet earth,” Councilmember David Wisenteiner said. “So just a big thank you to Julie and staff because it’s unbelievably complicated, and if you don’t know that you should.”