On June 5th, Mayor Bruce Bassett appointed Suzanne Zahr to fill the seat of Lara Sanderson as one of the seven Design Commissioners for Mercer Island. As an architect and general contractor, Suzanne has established a Design/Build firm on Mercer Island under her name and SZ Build, Inc., bringing 20 years of experience that includes time with NBBJ, Olson Kundig, Starbucks, and Amazon (as an IA consultant). She is excited to provide her expertise in design and architecture through this volunteer position.
Established in 1972, the Design Commission board is a group of volunteers who each serve for four years. Each commissioner is confirmed by the city council and appointed by the mayor. The Design Commissioners serve as an advisory board to City Council, providing expert advice on design matters related to the City’s commercial, office, and residential buildings.
From the City of Mercer Island’s website, the board's mission is “to promote quality community design and enhance construction and maintenance practices that will create an aesthetically attractive, easily accessible, and economically healthy environment throughout Mercer Island.”
One of the primary focus points for the Design Commission is the Town Center Design and Development. They follow strict design regulations enforced by policies created by the city. To ensure diverse land use and high quality aesthetic consistency, the Design Commission will either approve or disapprove proposals for new sites, making sure each proposal meets design regulations. They also provide this council to construction proposals outside of the Town Center, including residential matters.
Each member of the Design Commission has a strong background in either architecture, urban planning, or civil engineering, and there is at least one lay person on the board. Through this combination of experienced volunteers, the Design Commission is able to provide advice and make accurate decisions for Mercer Island.
Suzanne’s diverse background in the fields of architecture, engineering, and construction allows her to offer expertise in the areas of residential and commercial development. An architect and structural engineer since 1997, Suzanne received her Master of Architecture from Columbia University in NYC before moving to Seattle to work as an architect. She has served on the AIA Board of Directors in Seattle and as a committee member for the Commercial Real Estate Women organization.
As a business owner with a front end art gallery in Mercer Island’s Town Center, Suzanne has already contributed immensely to the aesthetics of Mercer Island. Her ability to maintain an eye on big-picture design, as well as the minute details of every project, will help her provide insightful advice as a Design Commissioner.
Written by Julia Hess