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Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Call To Order

Chairman McDonald called the meeting to order at 7:35 PM in the Council Chambers, City Hall, 9611 SE 36th Street, Mercer Island, Washington.

Roll Call

Design Commissioners: Marcia Dawson, George Wittman, Attila Laszlo, Norman Sandler and Chairman McDonald were present. Fred Glick and Carl Bryant were absent.

Staff Present

Richard Hart- DSG Director, Anne-Marie Rennick- Senior Planner, Nancy Fairchild – Transportation Coordinator


January 10, 2001
Commissioner Wittman noted a mistake on page 3, top of page, it states, “Commissioner Wittman asked if the Design Commission…”. It should read, Commissioner Sandler instead of Wittman. Commissioner Sandler motioned to approve the minutes with the correction. Commissioner Dawson second the motion. Motion passed 5-0.

Regular Business

Action Item #1.
Signage review and approval for Village Cleaners, located at 8415 SE 68th Street within the Mercer Village Shopping Center. Chairman McDonald opened the public meeting.

STAFF REPORT: Richard Hart, DSG Director, made the staff presentation. In addition, Ann Marie Rennick, Senior Planner, and Nancy Fairchild, Transportation Planner, was available for questions. Signs in the Mercer Village Shopping Center are being brought to the Design Commission for review because of the interest and concern given to the character of the shopping center. Staff recommended approval with a change to more complementary colors for the sign, because criteria in subsection 5 (a) and (b) have not been met.

APPLICATION PRESENTATION: Tom McCandless, Eastside Signs, 15310 NE 96th Pl., Redmond, WA 98052, presented the proposal. He stated he is willing to work with the Commission on color choices. The red and blue color choice is to contrast with the teal roof and gray walls.

QUESTIONS FOR THE APPLICANT: Commissioner Wittman asked Mr. Hart if there were master sign criteria adopted when the site plan was approved for the Mercer Village Shopping Center. Mr. Hart said no. Mr. McCandless noted the proposal has changed to a wall-mounted sign. Commissioner Wittman added the building design does not obviously provide locations for the tenant signs. Commissioner Wittman asked if the sign was centered above the doors or above the columns. Mr. McCandless said it is centered above the columns. Commissioner Wittman asked for the reason in choosing two colors instead of one. Mr. McCandless stated it is for visual interest because of the minimal light. He clarified the cabinet color is a medium gray. Chairman McDonald voiced concern for how the back of the sign will appear from inside the tenant space. The location of the junction box was discussed and the applicant agreed to raise it. Commissioner Dawson pointed out the QFC sign and color predated the PBZ sign ordinance and should not be used as an example.


COMMISSIONER DISCUSSION: Discussion included the following: 1) Single color versus one color. The applicant would prefer red. 2) A single color instead of two colors shall be used. Yellow amber was suggested. Green was also suggested to compliment the roof and Starbucks. 3) Mr. Hart requested a specific direction for Staff to administratively approve a color. 4) Commissioner Dawson suggested actual color samples on vinyl be given to Staff for their review and approval.

MOTION: Commissioner Wittman motioned to grant approval of the sign proposal for Village Cleaners with the following conditions for the sign proposal as presented on formal plans, incorporating the findings of the staff report and in accordance with the Town Center District Development and Design Requirements and Section 19.15.040 of the Mercer Island Code. The conditions are as follows:

  1. One color shall be used for the lettering and shall be either a green or golden yellow. Color samples, including all the colors involved, shall be provided to Staff for their review and approval.
  2. The junction box shall be eliminated or placed above the sign so that it is not visible. The conduit shall run along the window mullion and be painted to match the wall color.

Commissioner Dawson second the Motion. Motion passed 5-0.

Action Item #2:
Second study session for review of preliminary plans for Island Market Square, located at 7801 SE 27th Street. Chairman McDonald opened the public meeting.

STAFF REPORT: Richard Hart, DSG Director, summarized the memorandum that reviewed the conceptual mixed-use plans for the 2.5-acre site. Variety of design in the proposed buildings are introduced by the applicant. This includes a more traditional design along SE 27th Street then changing to a more contemporary design along SE 28th Street. Parking access is now limited to two access points and there is an internal ramp between the two parking levels. Other changes include an increase in commercial use by 5,000 sq. ft., now totaling 27,000 sq. ft.; and, the residential uses are reduced 11,000 square feet, now totaling 200,000 sq. ft., yet the number of dwelling units remain at 235. They are still providing more parking than the code requires. The draft traffic study is completed; the final TIA will be completed prior to submitting for hearing. Staff will make a final analysis of the SEPA Checklist in addition to analysis of design review for the public hearing. There is one area of concern; that is, bulk and mass along the street frontage. Shared parking was discussed. The traffic study will address shared parking. City staff is comfortable with the two access points proposed in terms of queuing and pedestrian safety. Pedestrian mid-block crosswalks will be reviewed when the final traffic study is complete, as well as the queuing into the garage. The city has no plans to change the configuration to 78th Ave SE.

APPLICANT PRESENTATION: Paul Armitstead, Seco Development, 10843 NE 8th Street, Suite 200, Bellevue, WA, introduced the project team: Jim Bodoia, Mithun Architects, Bill Stalzer, Land Use Consultant, Larry Smart, Landscape Architect. Jim Bodoia, Architect, 1201 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA, presented the conceptual plans, handing out color booklets to the Commission and staff. Medium to small-sized commercial shops are provided along all street frontages with residents above in four buildings and office in one building. All the parking is not visible from the street. Front doors exist from the street for each of the four residential buildings. There are two access points providing both entry and exiting traffic for the garage. There is now an internal ramp to access the lower garage. The four pedestrian plazas from the street lead to landscaped courtyards. The elevator/lobbies that access the lower garage level from the street will be open during business hours (8AM to 8PM), providing barrier free access. All retail access is from the street. Service deliveries (small vans) will occur from the backside of the retail space. The possibility remains that large truck deliveries will occur at the street level in pull out areas along SE 27th And SE 28th. It is highly possible the courtyard will be secured after hours. Mr. Bodoia then discussed the architecture of the individual buildings. The office building along SE 27th Street uses traditional and familiar materials and modulation. It is three stories on the street level with a fourth floor setback. The building on the corner of SE 27th Street and 78th Ave SE changes in terms of window patterns for residential use with more vertical modulation. Bay windows and small decks are provided. The corner has a stronger entry element. Most of the buildings have flat roofs. Mid-block along 78th Ave SE a more contemporary architecture is introduced. The building has been pulled back further from the street. A different layering approach has been taken for the building located on the corner of SE 28th Street and 78th Avenue SE that will be studied further.

QUESTIONS FOR THE APPLICANT: Commissioner Sandler pointed out the importance of the 2-story appearance from the street; he asked Mr. Bodoia to address this. Mr. Bodoia responded by pointing out the base of every building is articulated different than the floors above. Corners and mid-block connections are pulled back more. Commissioner Laszlo asked why there is more bulk and mass along SE 27th than along SE 28th. Mr. Bodoia responded it has to do with SE 28th facing QFC and to the south versus SE 27th facing towards I-90 and to the north. Commissioner Wittman commented on the attention needed to reduce the bulk of the building located on the corner of SE 27th Street and 78th Ave SE. Chairman McDonald added that this corner appears monolithic and urban, and breaking up of the façade is needed both horizontally and vertically. Commissioner Wittman asked if the architect considered where the heart or focal point of the project is, to meet someone for example. Mr. Bodoia suggested the south side would most likely represent that. Commission Wittman suggested a strong element along 78th to make that point, and he noted that the setbacks are all the same. Mr. Bodoia stated that level of detail has not been looked at yet, but the intent is for all the plaza entries to have that significance.

Chairman McDonald referred to the Town Center Plan for the requirement of focal points. Commissioner Dawson asked where is the pedestrian access from Building A to the transit station at I-90. Mr. Bodoia answered using the north stairwell and plaza stairs to the north, using comfortable riser and tread distances. Commissioner Dawson stated the energy seems to be focused on the courtyard, and it seems the street level spaces need to be more inviting. Mr. Bodoia stated the level of detail has not been worked on yet, but will. Commissioner Laszlo asked if corner treatment on SE 28th Street and 78th Ave SE has been studied, relating it to the sculpture provided across the street by QFC. Chairman McDonald pointed out both the northwest and southwest corners of the project are the most important, and he feels they both need work. Commissioner Sandler suggested retaining the art feature on the corner of SE 28th and 78th Ave SE. Commissioner Laszlo asked for more clarification and variety on the roof types. Commissioner Dawson asked how much retail, in percentage, is on the site. Mr. Bodoia responded it estimates approximately ten percent, slightly more than what exists now.

Mr. Armitstead raised the question of the design criteria stating the appearance of two stories is being met for this project. Commissioner Sandler responded, the intent of the criteria is that the proposal respects the appearance of two stories on the street, and it is important that the massing of the buildings does not appear as five stories from the street. Chairman McDonald added a stronger base of the buildings are needed. Mr. Bodoia agreed to look at that. Commissioner Laszlo and Sandler agreed elevations are needed of the courtyard spaces. Mr. Bodoia added they have not finalized those plans yet. Commissioner Dawson asked for clarification on the route from the parking garage to the courtyards. She added Mercer Island does not want a downtown Bellevue. We want more of a pedestrian friendly environment incorporated with reduction of the bulk and mass. Commissioner Sandler agreed. He added, the mix of public plaza spaces with private spaces will be a challenge. Discussion continued regarding the need for more clarification of the plaza entries to the courtyards and the courtyards themselves.

Mr. Smart, Atelier Landscape Architects, 120 Belmont Ave. E., Seattle, WA, stated scale appears to be the difference between Mercer Island and Seattle and Bellevue. The proposal does address this. Along the west side is the strongest streetscape, and it is linear. Details of the balance between the public and private spaces are yet to be worked out. Commissioner Sandler suggested if Building C was set back another 10 to 12 feet, more of a public plaza and meeting place could be created. Mr. Bodoia responded there is an arcade along the street frontage of Building C. Commissioners agreed that more of a public space needs to be provided along the street. Commission Dawson pointed out that having public access after 8PM is important for evening restaurant uses. Mr. Armitstead responded that the definition of “after hours” needs to be made and may be a seasonal decision as well as an on-site manager’s decision. Chairman McDonald closed the question and discussion period and opened the meeting to public testimony.

Phil Flash, 3005 69th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA, spoke of his attendance at previous hearings when the Town Center regulations were created. A pedestrian friendly character was the intent, and this proposal does not meet the intent. There are no mid-block connections, and it should be open 24 hours a day. He supports the introduction of artwork to be reviewed at the next meeting.

Joe Wallace, 8737 48th Street, Mercer Island, WA, encouraged the continuous review for the project to meet the criteria in the regulations. 78th Ave SE has been dedicated as a pedestrian street, and he feels this street frontage should be dedicated to the public. He asked if phasing will be considered. He emphasized the importance of the artwork. The southwest corner of the project has a historical background for artwork. The office building is very generic and needs attention.

Bryan Cairns, 7628 79th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA. He is the Design Commission liaison from the City Council. From viewing the pictures, more indentation of the facades is needed both vertical and horizontal.

Gerald Williams, 3625 W. Mercer Way, Mercer Island, WA. He owns downtown property and has been through the design review process before and has learned flat roofs do not accommodate the village feeling, and providing pedestrian connections is crucial. The design does not meet the intent of the village objective. This project will impact downtown a great deal. The underground parking works well, but the design of the buildings needs work. The project appears as six projects, underground parking and five buildings, instead of one.

CLOSING: Commissioner Laszlo reiterated that more public plaza space is needed along 78th Ave SE, providing a focal point. He added elevations are very important to provide clarification on both the public and private spaces. Commissioner Wittman asked if a model could be provided. Mr. Bodoia said they would think about it and speak to Richard Hart and Kathy Harbert regarding needed submittal materials. Chairman McDonald added this project is the key location in the business district and in general is headed in the right direction. Mr. Bodoia concurred.

Chairman McDonald closed the study session for the review of preliminary plans.

Other Business

Commissioners’ Comments:
Commissioner Sandler asked if Londi Lindell, City Attorney, could explain in a written memo the Commissioners’ legal authority for the review of churches.

Commissioners’ Absences:
None were reported for the next meeting.

Council Liaison Report:
Councilmember Cairns left early.

Next Regular Meeting:
Richard Hart asked if the February 14th meeting could be rescheduled to another date within the same week because of potential absences on Valentine’s Day. Tuesday, February 13th, 2001, was chosen for the next meeting date. The Mercer Island United Methodist Church is scheduled for that meeting.:


[Important Note: The proceedings of the Design Commission meeting were recorded on tape and are on file with the Development Services Group. The complete agenda and official minutes of this meeting are also available from the Development Services Group.]


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