The Hines Project: Update + Design

May 18, 2015 | by Erin Sirianni

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This article follows up on My MI’s previous post Talk of the Town: The Hines Project, a development central to much public conversation as it stands to change the landscape of our Town Center. Here’s the latest update on the mixed-use development, slated to break ground early 2016.

At a Town Center open house last week, Hines shared the property design (pictured below).


Design rendering for the Hines property | Image credit – 2015 Neoscape, Inc.

The design features a building of mid-century modern design, a thoroughfare that runs between them, and a generous public plaza. The buildings will include both commercial and residential space.

While many will continue to be concerned about the added infrastructure costs this property will bring to Mercer Island, at least from an aesthetic point of view, this design shows a significant improvement over the motley development at SE 29th St and 78th Ave SE.

Southwest view of the Hines property

Southwest view of the Hines property

Whole Foods no longer a contender for commercial space

Early in public discussion, Hines representatives disclosed that they were negotiating with Whole Foods as a commercial tenant. Hines has since confirmed that Whole Foods as well as two other potential grocers have backed out due to “uncertainty” over the Albertson’s site.

This may not disappoint some Islanders who pointed out that three grocery stores next door to each other didn’t make sense.

In an email, Evan Kaseguma, a Hines representative, shared the company’s new approach: “Many community members liked the idea of Whole Foods, but many others wanted a smaller-scale retail approach.  So, we’re targeting high-quality smaller scale retailers and hopefully a boutique grocer. We won’t know more for several months, but that’s our current direction.

What’s in it for you?

Many have wondered what amenities this development will offer to the public. Though Whole Foods is out of the picture, the design of the public plaza looks promising.

According to code in order to achieve five stories of height, developers must add either a public plaza, a mid-block connection, or affordable housing. Hines shared that they are providing a public plaza at double the square footage required plus a mid-block connector “as a gift to Mercer Island” in response to public and City Council feedback.

The public plaza’s close proximity to the Mercer Island Farmer’s Market may lend itself as a natural gathering point for Islanders after shopping. The plaza will also include an amphitheater for live outdoor music and a fireplace.

Additionally, if Hines and the City can reach an agreement, the development will also include 200 grade-level parking spaces, which would be welcomed by downtown shoppers, visitors of the Farmers Market, and patrons of the forthcoming Mercer Island Center for the Arts.

Hines Project by the Numbers

Currently, features of the property include:

  • 180 to 200 residential units of mostly 1 and 2-bedroom apartments
  • 16,000 square feet of retail
  • 518 total parking spaces; 200 grade-level spaces will be reserved for public parking if an agreement can be reached with the City Council
  • 13,488 square foot public plaza, with a fireplace and amphitheater
  • A north-to-south mid-block connector

Future of current property businesses

The development is located at SE 29th St and 78th Ave SE between QFC and Albertson’s. The area is currently home to MudBay, Veloce Velo, Seven Star Chinese Restaurant, Terra Bella, and Tuscan Stone Wood-Fired Pizza.
Terra Bella will be moving to the Islandia Center (same shopping center as Island Books). Eva Nehring at State Farm Insurance will be moving mid-June to new office space on Mercer Island at 2825 NE 80th NE, Suite 1.  Veloce Velo and Tuscan Stone Wood-Fired Pizza do not yet have locations but have shared their commitment to staying on the island. Other businesses, including Seven Star Chinese Restaurant, are uncertain about their next steps or could not be reached.

What do you think about the design of the Hines property? Feel free to share in the comments.

CORRECTION: This article originally stated that the property included two separate buildings. Other reports indicate that this design is actually one structure.

Update 6/4/15:  According to the Mercer Island Reporter, the City of Mercer Island’s Design Commission unanimously rejected the preliminary designs for the Hines property during their May 27th meeting. Additionally, at the June 2nd City Council meeting, all council members voted to remove the development’s exemption from its moratorium on downtown development projects over two stories. Hines did not receive a commitment from Whole Foods for commercial space, and the public parking agreement between the City and Hines is now tenuous.

Additional reading:
Hines, previously exempt, now included in the moratorium Mercer Island Reporter (6/2/2015)
Hines needs another reviewMercer Island Reporter (5/28/2015)
Letter by Joe Rogoff, Whole Foods Regional President, presented at the City Council February 2nd Meeting
Council passes moratorium; exempts Hines DevelopmentMercer Island Reporter
Developer obtains final piece of landMercer Island Reporter (January 21, 2015)
Another big project for Town Center – Mercer Island Reporter (November 25, 2013)