Isao Wakayama has run a Japanese restaurant in downtown Mercer Island for the past 15 years. She's built up a crowd of regulars who come in for her fried oysters, miso soup and...

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Isao Wakayama has run a Japanese restaurant in downtown Mercer Island for the past 15 years. She’s built up a crowd of regulars who come in for her fried oysters, miso soup and sukiyaki, and expected she would serve them for years.

But earlier this month, Wakayama and the owners of Ana’s Family-style Mexican Restaurant next door were told they would have to move within a year.

“I don’t know what our future is,” said Wakayama, co-owner of Haruko’s Japanese Restaurant, who is scouring the island for a new location.

Haruko’s and Ana’s are being displaced by a retirement community. ERA Care Communities bought the site this month.

ERA, which runs six assisted-living communities in Seattle and the Eastside, plans to start construction on a 130-unit center at 2420 76th Ave. S.E. next fall. The center is expected to open in 2007.

Nine mixed-use buildings with more than 500 apartments and 600,000 square feet of office and retail space are planned for downtown. They are expected to be completed in two years.

Residents cling to the island’s restaurants. The city’s 12 restaurants, which serve Thai, Chinese, Italian and comfort food, are often crammed with families, retirees and young couples who want to dine out close to home. It’s easier to stay on the island for a meal out with friends and family than to battle traffic on and off the island.

Susan Blake, who’s lived on Mercer Island since the mid-1950s, enjoys stopping by Ana’s, one of her favorite restaurants, for a quick bite after work.

“It’s going to be a loss for us,” said Blake, who has eaten at Ana’s three times a month since it opened about a year ago. “I hope they can find another space to open in.”

Mercer Island’s small pool of restaurants has translated into big business for restaurant owners.

Weekdays at the Islander Pub, customers frequently wait up to 20 minutes in lines that snake out the door to get burgers, steaks and salads.

Losing restaurants is certainly not a positive thing for the island, said Jamie Butler, chef and manager at the pub. “We need healthy competition because there’s not enough decent restaurants on the island.”

Renton chamber head

The Greater Renton Chamber of Commerce has a new director. Bill Taylor, who ran the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce for five years, will join the chamber in January.

Taylor, the former director of marketing and business development at Longacres Racetrack in Renton, plans to focus on the city’s marketing campaign. Six years ago, the city launched its brand campaign, “Ahead of the Curve,” to showcase the city as a good place to live and work.

Taylor replaces Suzette Cooke, who left in September to work at her husband’s printing business.

Gone to Bellevue

Low rents, high vacancies and rent concessions are drawing companies to Bellevue.

McAdams Wright Ragen, a Seattle-based regional brokerage firm; Trammel Crow, a multinational commercial real-estate brokerage;; Symetra Financial; and several other companies have opened new offices in downtown Bellevue.

The latest new tenant is D.A. Davidson, an investment firm based in Great Falls, Mont., that has opened an office at 800 Bellevue Way N.E., Suite 525. The branch becomes the firm’s 10th in the state.

New companies have helped drive down Bellevue’s office-vacancy rate in the past two years. The rate dropped from a high of 29 percent in 2002 to 10.8 percent in September.

Kristina Shevory: 206-464-2039 or