City of Mercer Island, MICA pause to explore all options for arts center

The city of Mercer Island requested that Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) consider delaying the upcoming public hearing and accompanying legislative review process regarding an arts center proposed in the northwest corner of Mercerdale Park, according to a MICA press release.

The MICA board of directors met at their monthly meeting after receiving a letter from City Manager Julie Underwood on Oct. 10, and agreed to accept the city’s request to pause the current process. The Oct. 18 public hearing in front of the Planning Commission has been canceled.

“I believe the timing is such that we have an exciting opportunity to work closely with MICA to explore alternative sites for the project,” Underwood wrote, noting that the Mercer Island City Council is supportive of MICA and would like to see it thrive in the city.

MICA is currently planned for a site on city-owned property in Mercerdale Park in downtown Mercer Island. The city has been looking at the site and the project under a SEPA environmental review process, and recently opted for a phased approach after issuing a mitigated determination of non-significance on Sept. 11.

“MICA believes that this ‘pause’ is a positive approach to advancing the project,” according to the MICA press release. “It will also allow the city and MICA to explore alternative sites for a proposed arts center and discuss options for a partnership that can meet multiple city and community needs.”

The community group Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks (CCMIP), which opposes the park location, said in a press release that its members applaud the city for its leadership in recommending a “pause” for the MICA project in Mercerdale Park “to consider other locations and to discuss options for a partnership that has the potential of serving a wide range of residents and needs.”

“As CCMIP and supporters of the arts have strongly suggested over the past many months and years, there are other, better suited locations and options for consideration that protect Mercerdale Park from encroachment,” stated Meg Lippert, CCMIP co-chair.

Some Islanders support alternate locations for MICA, such as the Community and Event Center or a downtown site purchased through a public-private partnership. MICA is set to be home to many local arts organizations, including Mercer Island-based Youth Theatre Northwest (YTN).

“We look forward to broad citizen participation as the dialogue continues,” said CCMIP Co-chair Peter Struck. “CCMIP is eager to engage with MICA and the city in developing a plan that will protect public parkland while supporting Youth Theatre Northwest and the arts.”

According to MICA, the city shares its belief that the creation of an arts center on Mercer Island will add numerous quality of life benefits to the community.

“We look forward to a mutually beneficial working relationship as we move through this process,” according to MICA.

For more information on MICA, visit the city’s website at www.mercergov.org/mica or www.mercerislandarts.org. For more on CCMIP, visit protectMIparks.org.

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