City Council takes action to create commuter parking for Islanders

May 14, 2018 | by Erin Sirianni

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The City of Mercer Island is considering a pair of landmark projects to create up to 200 parking spaces in Mercer Island 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.

The two properties involved (see map below) are located near each end of the future East Link light rail station. One is the former Tully’s Coffee site at 7810 SE 27th Street, south of the Mercer Island Park & Ride, which the City is planning to purchase and combine with adjacent property it already owns. This property is projected to support over 100 underground parking spaces with potential mixed-use development above. 

The settlement agreement with Sound Transit called for a 51% match by the City for any expenditure of Sound Transit funds. The $2.0 million purchase price is eligible for reimbursement by Sound Transit, and the adjacent existing City property will be Mercer Island’s 51% contribution to the deal. This significantly reduces the financial impact to taxpayers for property acquisition. The City plans to leverage the value of the property to attract private investment to construct the parking.

The second property is a small parcel of land next to Freshy’s Seafood Shack, at the southwest corner of SE 24th Street and 76th Avenue SE, which the City is selling for $2.3 million to the adjacent landowner who will consolidate and redevelop both parcels. As part of the sale agreement, the property owner commits to provide an additional 65-70 underground commuter parking spaces for use by Mercer Island residents during peak commute hours. The commuter parking, which will come at minimal cost to the City, is valued at approximately $6.0 million, and once constructed, will be controlled by the City between the hours of 5:30 am and 7:30 pm, 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,” said Mayor Debbie Bertlin. “We have the opportunity to leverage Sound Transit funds to create innovative partnerships that will advance Islander interests.” 
Frequent 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. By creating two new, separate parking facilities, the City Council intends to accomplish two important objectives. First, parking serving Island residents is intended to mitigate the full lot many people experience at the existing Mercer Island Park & Ride. Second, the commuter parking opportunity sites are dispersed across three locations to create greater mobility in Town Center. 

“What you see today is a City Council who thought boldly about the future mobility needs of Islanders,” said Salim Nice, Deputy Mayor. “Our goal is to provide parking while enhancing our Town Center retail core and creating a new gateway for Mercer Island just steps away from the future East Link light rail service.”

“What I love about what we’re undertaking is that these redevelopment opportunities present an incredibly elegant solution,” said Councilmember Dave Wisenteiner. “We’re able to use Sound Transit dollars combined with a public-private partnership, combined with existing land the City already owns next to Tully’s, all in pursuit of fulfilling our commitment to residents without additional financial burden on citizens.”

The City 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 5th meeting. If approved, an extensive due diligence period will follow, and the closing will be scheduled to occur early next year.

[City of Mercer Island Media Release / For more coverage, check out the Mercer Island Reporter’s recent article, “Council secures commuter parking for Mercer Islanders”]