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Unpopular opinion: Mercer Island has nothing to offer

KIRO Radio’s Zak Burns spent the weekend showing his father around the Seattle area. This is how he came to a realization about Mercer Island.

“Pops was in town and I wanted to show him as much as possible,” Zak told co-host Gee Scott. “He enjoyed quite a few different neighborhoods. We didn’t make it everywhere like Georgetown, Magnolia, Madrona, Bellevue — I think he’d like Bellevue.”

“Here’s the thing: Mercer Island has nothing to offer,” he said. “I have no idea what the appeal of Mercer Island is whatsoever. It looks like Kansas to me. There is zero charm there. We are over there trying to find one unique thing – nothing.”

“Bellevue, it’s not my scene, but I understand why some people like it,” he added. “Mercer Island, I don’t get it.”

Mercer Island has two things

For Gee, Mercer Island isn’t all bad — it raises to the level of “meh.”

“There are two things that make Mercer Island meh,” Gee said. “New Seasons – love that place. And the fact it’s right there off I-90. That’s it.”

“When I go to New Seasons on Mercer Island, it’s almost like I’m by myself in the store,” he said.  “It is the weirdest thing when I go there … if somebody told me everybody else in the store is actually a robot, I’d believe it. It’s the one time I wish I was at Trader Joe’s, and they say ‘What are you going to do the rest of the day?’ I get annoyed by that. This is a whole other end of the spectrum …”

Mercer Island has served as Seattle suburb for nearly 150 years. Roughly 25,000 people live on the 13 square miles of island between Seattle and Bellevue. Per capita, it’s one of the wealthiest places in the country and has the fifth highest income in the state. With all the money and time, however, no one seems to have done much with it.

One travel article listing “things to do” on the island only lists two things related to Mercer Island — Luther Burbank Park and Lake Washington (which surrounds the island). The rest of the list basically tells travelers to go to Bellevue or Seattle.

“I thought ‘There has to be some kind of quaint little downtown area,” Zak said. “There’s got to be something interesting about Mercer Island.’ I couldn’t find it.”

To be fair, and, have a few counter arguments — parks, some shops, and a bar.

Mercer Island metaphors

The Truman Show” is a 1998 film starring Jim Carey as Truman — a man who has no idea his life is a TV set and everyone in it is an actor. Everything is fake and manicured. It’s a bit sterile.

‘The Truman Show!’ That’s it,” Gee said. “I feel like I’m on ‘The Truman Show’ (when I go to Mercer Island).”

“It’s not just that I don’t see any of my delegation when I’m there, I just don’t feel a personality,” he said.

Perhaps a Truman Show that is completely “charmless” that Truman would have tried to escape at the age of 18, Zak said. If you ask Zak, however, it’s a little more like The Sims.

The Sims is a sort of video game with no real goals. Players create a world with people in it and watch them “live” a simulated life. It can be mundane and if you don’t tell the characters what to do, they just mill about. If you live in the Seattle area and have no frame of reference for this, that’s OK. Just head over to Mercer Island and that’s the basic idea of The Sims, according to Zak.

“It’s just a bunch of people milling around,” Zak said. “Nobody seems to be going any particular place because there is no particular place to go.”


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