MICA updates preliminary building design to preserve wetlands

January 17, 2016 | by Erin Sirianni

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New-MICA-FootprintsThe Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) recently released an updated building design. The revised design is the outcome from a year-long study of the proposed MICA site, resulting in an updated design that retains all existing programs while avoiding a small wetland nearby. As in the original design, it does not intrude on the walking path that surrounds the Mercerdale lawn.

MICA has worked over the past year with multiple expert consultants, City of Mercer Island staff, and other governmental agencies to look at the multiple factors for use of the proposed site.

Bruce Lorig, chair of the MICA building committee and a developer with over 40 years of experience, explained: “This is the normal process whenever you do a large development project. The site must be examined for multiple factors in a methodical, organized, sequential fashion and plans developed to accommodate the site conditions.”

MICA commissioned a number of necessary professionals, including a geotechnical engineer, land surveyor, wetlands biologist, structural engineer, environmental consultant, landscape architect, general contractor and others, to investigate the site conditions and advise MICA.

The area around the abandoned recycling center and the adjacent northwest hillside is generally known to be a wet location. The Watershed Company, a well-respected and experienced wetlands consulting firm, inspected the proposed building site and then delivered their report to MICA in May 2015. They identified a small finger of Category III wetland, meaning it is of relatively low hydrological and ecological significance, on the site. Watershed’s analysis found that the small finger connected with a larger, two-acre, off-site wetland to the south. Arguably, Mercer Island’s existing wetlands regulations prohibit mitigating wetlands more than two acres in size.

Lease-Boundary-FootprintMICA considered all possible ways to address the wetland after consulting with independent legal counsel and several developers. In Fall 2015, MICA’s Board directed its design team to revise the initial design in accordance with the information presented by its consultants, including locating the building footprint entirely outside of the wetland, wetland buffer, and the perimeter walking path around the Mercerdale lawn. This new plan still fulfills the programmatic needs of the MICA users and the Mercer Island community.

“We all care about our environment and want this exciting facility to enhance Mercerdale Park,” said John Gordon Hill, MICA’s President. “We are very pleased to have updated MICA’s design to leave this area untouched without measurably impacting the needs of MICA artists or the patron experience.”

The new design and a comparison to the prior footprint is posted on MICA’s website.

For more information about MICA and detailed information on the conceptional design of the Arts Center facility, visit MercerIslandArts.org/faq.

[Media Release]