After searching for months, if not years, for a location for commuter parking on Mercer Island, the city announced that it has found two.
The city is considering a pair of projects to create up to 200 parking spaces in Town Center, as part of its commitment to Islanders made during mitigation negotiations with Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
“In a move that brings together Sound Transit funding, city-owned properties and private partnerships, the city will secure new parking within walking distance of the new light rail station scheduled to open in 2023,” according to a city press release.
The two properties involved are located near each end of the future East Link light rail station: the former Tully’s Coffee site at 7810 SE 27th St., and a small parcel of land next to Freshy’s Seafood Shack. Parking spaces on both properties are expected to be available by 2023, in time for the scheduled opening of the East Link light rail service on Mercer Island.
The settlement agreement with Sound Transit called for a 51 percent match by the city for any expenditure of Sound Transit funds. The city is planning to purchase the Tully’s site for $2 million and combine it with adjacent property it already owns, which will be Mercer Island’s contribution to the deal. The site is projected to support more than 100 underground parking spaces, with potential mixed-use development above.
This significantly reduces the financial impact to taxpayers for property acquisition, according to the city. The city plans to leverage the value of the property to attract private investment to construct the parking.
The city is selling the second property, at the southwest corner of Southeast 24th Street and 76th Avenue Southeast, for $2.3 million to the adjacent landowner, who will consolidate and redevelop both parcels. As part of the sale agreement, the property owner is committing to provide an additional 65-70 underground commuter parking spaces for use by Mercer Island residents during peak commute hours.
The commuter parking is valued at approximately $6 million, and once constructed, will be controlled by the city between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“Mercer Island is taking a forward-looking approach to addressing our transportation facilities and advancing solutions that meet the needs of our community. The council is excited to deliver what our residents have been asking for – commuter parking,” Mayor Debbie Bertlin stated in the press release. “We have the opportunity to leverage Sound Transit funds to create innovative partnerships that will advance Islander interests.”
The council will review the proposed purchase and sale agreements for the two property transactions at its May 15 meeting. The final purchase and sale agreements are scheduled for discussion and possible approval at the June 5 meeting. If approved, an extensive due diligence period will follow, and the closing will be scheduled to occur early next year.
Many other parcels have been considered for parking over the past few years, including Luther Burbank Park’s Kite Hill, as the Mercer Island Park and Ride is generally full by 7 a.m. on weekdays and about half of its spaces are used by non-Islanders.
Feedback during the mitigation negotiations and the subsequent public outreach process highlighted the need for more commuter parking and improved accessibility to the coming light rail. The city is hoping that creating two new, separate facilities will solve both issues.
In the settlement, Sound Transit agreed to pay $5.1 million for traffic-safety enhancements, to be determined by the city, and $4.5 million to build permanent park-and-ride spaces (not more than 200) on Mercer Island.
For more information, including an FAQ, see www.mercergov.org/CommuterParking.