OK to phase II

The School Board is set to vote on Thursday whether to proceed to a second phase on the Boys & Girls Club's proposal to build a $14 million teen center on the school district's North Mercer campus.

Conceptually, the proposal to build a teen center and field house, known as PEAK, is a good idea. It's a convergence of needs by different Island organizations: the Boys & Girls Club is looking to upgrade from its 90-year-old facility on West Mercer Way; certain athletic boosters are looking for more gym space; and the school district is in need of more classroom space at the high school.

The community as a whole could use a project that benefits the youth of the Island while meeting the objectives of more than one organization. The idea is worth pursuing and an affirmative vote to move into a second phase is recommended.

However, the School Board needs to balance a yes decision and what it implies with its primary obligation to educate the 4,000 students in the district and manage its own buildings, limited staff and shrinking state funds.

Within phase II, the district still may ask for a delay or stop the project. The School Board has been working to fashion a set of parameters to determine how it would manage its involvement and help determine if it will remain committed to the project.

A second phase will allow many questions and details to be addressed that are key to approval or denial of the project. Those questions include design, environmental mitigation, traffic impacts and how use of the facility would be scheduled or shared. Also of concern is how such a project will affect tenants of the buildings and neighbors.

A yes vote does not mean that the district is committed to the project beyond phase II. It allows everyone a closer look at the idea.

A yes vote also affirms the effort to see if key community organizations can work together to achieve a project that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Mercer Island Reporter Editorial Board member Ken Glass, who has publicly supported PEAK, recused himself from the editorial discussion.

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