Town Center Background and History
In 1994, a year-long process culminated in a set of design guidelines and code requirements for the Town Center area. Today, as the commercial district fills in and becomes more vibrant, the City Council identified a need to revisit the evolving look and feel of Town Center to ensure that it meets the community’s needs well into the future, and that appropriate plans are made for the opening of light rail in 2023.
The 1994 Visioning Process
Click here to download the November 1994 Town Center plan that generated the vision and guidelines that are currently in place (4Mb).
Recent planning activities in Mercer Island have focused attention on the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) (RCW 36.70A.130). The Washington State Legislature adopted the GMA in 1990 to address uncoordinated and unplanned growth that posed a threat to the state’s high quality of life.
Click here to read more about the guidance of the State's Growth Management Act (GMA).
The Origins of 2014-16 Visioning Process
In early 2014, the Council formed a Town Center Visioning Subcommittee to develop a Scope of Work and process to review both the effectiveness of the existing vision, and how well the existing design guidelines and code requirements achieved the vision.
The Subcommittee held a vision conversation with a diverse stakeholder group of 29 engaged community members on May 21, 2014. Following that session, the City Council reviewed the suggestions of the stakeholder group and Subcommittee and agreed on a work plan and priorities related to the Town Center. Later in 2014, the City Council authorized the hiring of a consultant to address one of the work plan priorities—to identify possible changes to the Town Center code and design guidelines.
In November, 2014, a consultant team of Seth Harry and Associates, 3MW and KPG was hired for Phase 1 of the work: evaluation of the current Town Center code and design guidelines, and recommendations for possible code changes in Phase 2. The team’s work included a three-day research workshop in Mercer Island, culminating in a presentation to the May 2014 stakeholder group and other interested persons, including several City Councilmembers.
Click here to download the Jan 2015 report summarizing the consultant team’s analysis, process and recommendations for next steps in developing an updated Town Center vision (2Mb).
To read all reports generated by the process, visit the Supporting Documents page.
2015 Town Center Development Moratorium
Based on lengthy deliberation, and in response to expressed public sentiment over the pace of development, the Mercer Island City Council voted on February 2, 2015, to impose a temporary four month moratorium halting most major new construction building permits in the Central Business District known as Town Center (see map).
A public hearing on the moratorium and its relationship to the Town Center planning process was held March 2, 2015, at a regular City Council meeting.
The moratorium became effective on February 16, and would continue until June 16, 2015. For more detail, read the full press release on the moratorium decision.
Click here to view a copy of the Ordinance (March 25 version).
Update #1: at its June 1, 2015 meeting, the City Council voted to include a large proposed development, known as the Hines Project, into the moratorium. Read press release.
Click here to view a copy of the updated Ordinance language (June 1, 2015 version).
Update #2: at its June 15, 2015 meeting, the City Council voted to extend the moratorium another six months to December 16, 2015, in order to allow adequate time to assess results from the public engagement component of the Visioning process. Read press release.
Click here to view a copy of the second update to the Ordinance language (June 15, 2015 version).
Update #3: at its November 16, 2015 meeting, the City Council voted to extend the moratorium another six months. It will automatically expire upon the adoption of updated Town Center Vision and Development Code, unless renewed for an additional period. Read press release.
Click here to view a copy of the third update to the Ordinance language (Nov 16, 2015 version).