As early as 2017, the Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) could open its doors to the public. Last Monday, July 21, City Council approved plans to move ahead on MICA design and fundraising, allowing for the potential use of an old recycling center at the Northwest end of Mercerdale Park.
John Gordon Hill, Chair of MICA said $4.1 million had already been raised toward the $20 million bill for the project and new renderings depict a 100-seat black box theater, a 100 to 120 seat recital hall, a 350 seat proscenium theater, a lobby, café and classroom and rehearsal spaces, alongside plenty of storage. Gallery space in the foyer would promote and feature local artists and the project, says Hill, could help toward a broader city initiative to revitalize Town Center.
“[MICA] would be the reverse field of dreams scenario,” said Hill, pointing to a hypothetical schedule. “If we build it, it will be hopping from day one.”
If fundraising efforts progressed as planned, the city could begin construction in early 2016. Following an 18-month construction period, MICA would likely open in mid to late 2017. Hill emphasized the importance and urgency of the project because Youth Theatre Northwest has already moved into its temporary home at Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
The project area, though exact acreage has not been pinned down, would likely include a sliver of native planting not originally anticipated, near the front. But city manager Noel Treat said that after consulting Parks and Recreation staff, he’d determined the existing area of the park “gets very little use.”
“The use that’s made of it is not it’s preferred use,” said Treat. “Our park staff doesn’t have concerns about a plan like this that would utilize the property differently.”
Councilmember Jane Brahm raised some concerns about the size of the project and whether that footprint would change as plans inched forward, encroaching on other features, like the skate park.
Monday’s action was not a formal lease with defining boundaries; that much will come before Council at a later date.
“This is an exciting opportunity you’re pulling together here,” Mayor Bruce Bassett told Hill. “It has the potential to really be an asset for the community. Lots of things need to happen, including [finding] $16 million — but congratulations.”