Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) completed and submitted the “Responses to Citizens’ Questions to the SEPA Checklist Submission” to fulfill the third step of the mandatory State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) on Wednesday, January 18. SEPA reviews are part of the process for the City to approve new development projects, specifically focused on possible environmental impact. The City of Mercer Island received 26 letters and emails from community members responding to MICA’s SEPA submission.
The proposed arts center would be located in the northwest corner of Mercerdale Park, near the intersection of 77th Avenue SE and SE 32nd Street, on the site of the abandoned recycling center. The site includes a concrete plaza and flagpole (Bicentennial Park), the recycle storage building, public bathrooms, sinks and storage for the Farmers Market, asphalt paving, and an unmaintained wooded area in poor health.
MICA’s SEPA submission includes, among many other things, a traffic impact analysis; identification of adequate parking to meet city code; wetland delineation, geotechnical reports; slope stability review; and tree assessment.
“MICA compiled its SEPA submission working with independent experts in areas including parking, environmental studies, and transportation,” said Bruce Lorig, MICA Board member and chairman of its Building Committee. “We look forward to continued collaboration with the City and City Council to complete the SEPA review and move to the next step in bringing the MICA facility to life for our community.”
MICA is committed to environmental stewardship. Its site design includes enhancements to the environmental value of the portion of the site not used for the building and plazas - areas now seriously degraded and partially paved. The building will be designed to LEED Silver standards. Proposed green measures include water efficient landscaping, use of native plants, wetland restoration, and energy efficient mechanical systems and commissioning. MICA’s cultural activities will bring the community to Mercerdale Park to enjoy the arts in a natural setting, encouraging park use and appreciation.
Mercer Island Center for the Arts is a Washington State nonprofit corporation and registered 501(c)3 organization formed to promote arts performance, exhibition and education on Mercer Island. For more information, please visit www.mercerislandarts.org/faq or visit the MICA office at 7710 SE 29th Street, Mercer Island.
Mercer Island Center for the Arts thanks the voters of Mercer Island for thoughtfully evaluating the parks petition and for concluding that our parks are for everyone. Islanders sent a clear message that our community will benefit from opportunities for the arts and parks to work together and enhance overall experience.
Over the past three years, MICA has made great progress in our building design, strategic plan and operational plan. We continue to focus on completing the required and currently in progress SEPA review including a viable solution for parking so we can finalize the lease with the City and kick start our capital campaign in earnest.
Ongoing community feedback is very important to us and MICA will have booths at future Farmers Markets, Mostly Music in the Park concerts, and at Summer Celebration to update Islanders on progress and to answer any questions from the community. Islanders can also find information on our website at www.mercerislandarts.org/faq, by stopping by our downtown office or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Friends of MICA Program Empowers Community Involvement and Support
Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) today released its Annual Report 2015 "A Sense of Place", the first annual report for the non-profit organization, to every household in the Mercer Island community. The Annual Report 2015 highlights the work of the founding Board of Directors, professional partners, MICA resident users, and many individuals and organizations in the community who have labored to create an organizational structure that will support the creation and building of a center for the arts on Mercer Island.
Art Brings Us Together is the central theme. MICA will provide a focal point for creating and experiencing art in all its forms, benefiting all from preschoolers to seniors. It will also redefine the town center, focusing and nourishing the social and economic life on the Island. MICA’s mission lives in the union of the arts, community, and education.
“A remarkable group of your fellow citizens have volunteered their time and money to create a beautiful new home for theater, music, dance, and the visual arts on the Island,” said President / Board Chair, John Gordon Hill in his Message from the President. The Annual Report 2015 introduces the MICA Board of Directors, 15 community volunteers who represent significant professional experience and community service in finance, legal, construction, fundraising, and nonprofit and arts management. MICA’s resident users are also introduced: Youth Theatre Northwest, Children’s Dance Conservatory / Island Youth Ballet, Musical Mind Studio, Music Works Northwest, Russian Chamber Music Foundation, and Mercer Island Visual Arts League (MIVAL).
Revenue raised by December 31, 2015 is just over $5 million at $5,006,945 and expenditures as of December 31, 2015 are $934,839. “Over the first two years of MICA’s existence, a majority of our disbursements have been related to the study, planning, and design of the arts facility with emphases on the resident artists and long term operational stability,” states Board of Directors officers Peter Hutt, Treasurer, and Dirk van der Burch, Comptroller. “Disbursements were covered by early donations leaving a comfortable level of liquidity for the organization as we enter 2016.”
MICA also debuts Friends of MICA in the Annual Report 2015. Friends of MICA is a new program enabling anyone to immediately support and get involved in the Center for the Arts. Individuals, businesses, and nonprofit groups are invited to join the founding group of Friends of MICA. All Friends of MICA will be invited to an annual meeting and an annual Friends appreciation event, and will receive a monthly e-newsletter with program and event information and project updates.
MICA’s Annual Report 2015 also highlights general information and facts on the central issues to the project including: economic impact, location, facility, and sustainable operating model. MICA has created several resources to provide detailed information and updates on the conception and planning for the Center for the Arts. Readers can obtain information on frequently asked questions by visiting MercerIslandArts.org/FAQ or by visiting the MICA office at 7710 SE 29th St. Questions can also be emailed to askMICA@MercerIslandArts.org.
Focus on Education and Performances Creates Diversified Revenues
Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) released preliminary operating plan projections today. The three-year plan projects steady state annual operating revenue of $543,000, contributed revenue (fundraising) of $323,000 and expenses of $866,000.
MICA researched, developed and refined its operating plan from April 2014 to December 2015 in consultation with AMS Planning & Research, a global arts and entertainment industry consulting firm with over 25 years’ experience working with hundreds of arts organizations. AMS’ clients have included Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, the Sydney Opera House and the Seattle Symphony as well as numerous community performing arts centers nationwide.
“The MICA operating pro forma is based on detailed research in the local arts and cultural sector, data from our nationwide performing arts benchmarking program PACStatssm and extensive conversations with MICA leadership and local user groups,” said Katie Oman, Director of AMS. “It is informed by industry best practices including conservative attendance estimates and an annual contribution to a 30-year building maintenance reserve fund. Based on the projected activity and normal industry operations, the contributed income level falls well within the expected range for community arts venues, as well as the expected parameters of a vital and productive operation.”
Plan highlights include:
Robust usage of 241 total use days (rehearsals, performances and rentals) per performance space
Over 2,400 class sessions in the studios, theatre lab and classrooms
Over 1,500 classes/lessons in four practice rooms
Diversified revenue: 47% from performance space and rehearsal rentals; 40% from classes and 13% from ticketing.
Future MICA user groups consulted for the plan include Youth Theatre Northwest, Children’s Dance Conservatory/Island Youth Ballet, Mercer Island Visual Arts League, Music Works Northwest, Musical Mind Studio and Russian Chamber Music Foundation. Projected support for usage by the Farmers Market and the City were also included.
For conservatism, the model does not include any income from the planned café or from any programs produced by MICA directly on an “at-risk” basis.
“Multiple organizations based in MICA will offer a wide variety of arts performances, events and classes for community members of all ages. This will diversify our revenue streams and reduce risk relative to other centers nationwide which rely on the success of one organization or are limited to a single-use facility,” said Peter Hutt, MICA Treasurer. “Most importantly, arts education is integral to our mission and improves the financial results, with 40% of revenues coming from classes.”
Click here for the full opinion letter from AMS summarizing the operating plan is posted on MICA’s website.
For more information about MICA and additional information on the projected finances of the Arts Center facility, visit MercerIslandArts.org/faq.
Year-long Study Results in New Design
The Mercer Island Center for the Arts, (MICA), released an updated building design today. 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.
MICA 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.”
Click here to view the new design and a comparison to the prior footprint.
by Bob Brahm, Past Commander, Mercer Island VFW Post 5760
Following letters in the Reporter and testimony at a City Council meeting on the subject of Bicentennial Park and veterans, I want to give another perspective.
Bicentennial Park was built in 1976 with donations from the community to mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of our nation. It was not conceived as a park dedicated to the service of veterans. It was to celebrate our country’s birthday. The Veterans Pergola in Mercerdale Park was conceived and built with input from veterans to honor those who have served our country.
Veterans have never had an attachment to Bicentennial Park, other than that to the flag that is flown there. Our interest is in the flag and the flagpole, and in the honor “Old Glory” should command. There is no honor shown our flag when it flies between an insurance building, two public “latrines,” an abandoned trash facility and amidst trees that overshadow it, as it now does in Bicentennial Park.
In my opinion, and in the opinion of many veterans who live on Mercer Island, the flag and flagpole that are presently in Bicentennial Park should be moved to Veterans’ Plaza, to stand tall near the Veterans Pergola, and to be a backdrop to the ceremonies and performances that occur there.
Bicentennial Park and the veterans should never be used as a pawn in the fight over whether to locate the Mercer Island Center for the Arts at the edge of Mercerdale Park. It is an insult to veterans and to our flag.
By Connie Wible, one of MICA's future resident artists
I have lived on Mercer Island just above Mercerdale Park since 1988 and raised my 4 children here. The park and the trails above were a second home to me and my children.
I have taught piano lessons on the Island all these years, and I have seen in my own studio that music not only enriches the lives of musicians and their audiences, but it also powerfully enables communication and cognitive growth. MICA will be the place where I can share what I have learned with the community.
In the Music Technology Room MICA has designed with my help, I will be able to bring about, for the first time, a daytime program for seniors, including those with memory impairment, for which I have been training for the past 10 years. This MICA classroom will also be the home for Piano Keys to Autism, the keyboard methodology I developed and use with my Autism Spectrum students, many of whom are highly talented.
In addition, it will be a place of Music Wellness classes for adults. And of course MICA will be a welcome recital venue for piano students and professional musicians alike.
MICA will be a place where we can brainstorm, collaborate, and invent musical and other artistic activities for our community in the scale that is just right for this beloved park as it now stands, taking a space that has outlived its purpose and using it for community good.
Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) Board Chair John Gordon Hill announced today that phase two of the Art Center development has begun with the hiring of local Mercer Island resident, and long-time development professional, Sharon Perez. Perez will serve as the Capital Campaign Director, working directly with the Board to carry out the strategic fundraising plan for the new Center.
“Sharon is uniquely qualified to lead our capital campaign with her extensive advancement experience, strategic insight, and breadth of Mercer Island community relationships,” said Hill.Read more
By Bernel Goldberg, Islander and MICA Board Member
I've been fortunate to live in many amazing places, but when I moved to Mercer Island a dozen years ago, I fell in love and never want to leave. I found home! A neat developed downtown, and pretty much the rest is almost rural -- no sidewalks or streetlights. I commute into Seattle for work a couple times a week, but otherwise I'm in heaven working out of my home office, helping the kids get to the middle school and high school and football, and raising our ducks and chickens in our backyard. I care deeply about this place, and I want to preserve its magic.Read more
Board of Directors Elected to the Mercer Island Center for the Arts
MERCER ISLAND, WA — Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) is pleased to announce the election of three community leaders, who have recently joined MICA’s Board of Directors. Directors and Officers are elected for a one year term. New Directors include:Read more