Mercer Island is characterized by high quality neighborhoods that are well maintained and have a strong sense of pride.
There are three general types of residential neighborhoods in Mercer Island. First are single family neighborhoods which comprise the majority of the City’s developed land area, and consist primarily of owner occupied housing. Second, is the Town Center and third the surrounding multifamily zones which consist of a mix of rental and ownership multifamily housing.
The single family neighborhoods are predominantly residential with scattered uses such as schools and religious buildings. Single family neighborhoods typically serve the needs only of its residents, and because of their lower density residents rely predominantly on automobiles.
The Town Center multifamily areas are intermixed with other commercial and office uses. The mix of residential and commercial uses in the downtown results in creating a neighborhood that serves the needs of downtown area residents and residents from the broader community. The compactness of this area allows more opportunity for pedestrian access and transit use by residents.
Multifamily residential outside the Town Center tend to be more auto-dependent, with on-site or adjacent amenities such as open-space that primarily serves these neighborhoods. Residents in mixed use neighborhoods and multifamily residential areas often look for more amenities within walking distance of their housing and rely more on shared open spaces. When considering strategies and policies to address neighborhood character and quality, strategies can vary depending upon the type of neighborhood.
Some level of investment, and thus change, in existing neighborhoods is natural and an indication of a healthy, stable environment. Typical investments may include new additions and improvements on existing houses, as well as new houses that are built either on vacant lots or after a house is torn down. One of the City’s roles in promoting neighborhood quality is to facilitate healthy change within neighborhoods by providing for development that is compatible in quality, design, character and scale with existing land uses, traffic patterns, public facilities and sensitive environmental features. All neighborhoods in Mercer Island, but single family neighborhoods in particular, are largely dependent on automobiles as the primary transportation to jobs, transit stations, and commercial goods and services. Current and future provision and maintenance of roads, utilities and other public services are necessary to maintain residential access to all amenities.
Mercer Island single family neighborhoods pride themselves on their narrow, quiet streets and dense plantings. The City protects these neighborhoods through development regulations and other City codes which restrict the bulk and scale of buildings, control noise and nuisances, minimize the impact of non-residential uses and help preserve the natural environment. Parks, open spaces and trails also contribute to the neighborhood quality.
Through citizen boards, commissions and special task forces, the City encourages neighborhood participation in protecting and enhancing neighborhood quality. A matching grant program from the Beautification Fund encourages landscape plantings and other amenities.