KPFD board awards up to $12 million for SK community events center

Plenty of steps ahead until the project is built in 3 to 5 years

PORT ORCHARD — A long-awaited decision by the Kitsap Public Facilities District board of directors was made Monday night to provide up to $12 million in phased funding for Port Orchard’s proposed South Kitsap Community Events Center.

Board members voted unanimously to approve the funding through an interlocal agreement, or ILA, with the City of Port Orchard, which will now shepherd the $20 million project through a series of phased steps leading to the center’s eventual construction.

The board’s approval was a long time coming. The proposal asking KPFD to help fund a portion of the costs to build the $20 million, 24,000-square-foot community events center building first took root a year ago, culminating in an application to the board Jan. 14 seeking the funding.

Following a circuitous path punctuated by followup visits to KPFD board meetings and partnership agreements made with the Port of Bremerton, the City of Port Orchard and Kitsap County, the project sponsors Sound West Group and Port Orchard ultimately delivered an ILA to the board for consideration. The KPFD board members, who in July ranked the proposal as its top funding priority, approved the ILA and its agreed-upon list of tasks eventually leading to the center’s construction.

KPFD’s board is responsible for allocating funds from a pool of Washington state sales tax rebate money allocated to Kitsap County for local projects deemed to provide the greatest benefits to their community. A handful of applications from communities around the county were considered by the board, but the Port Orchard project topped the priority list, due in part to the South Kitsap region not having received project funding in the past.

“I’m excited they fully funded us for our ‘ask’ of $12 million for the $20 million project,” Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu said the day following the board’s decision.

“We’ve got a heck of a lot more to do, from shoring up our other public partners to raising additional capital. This should give Kitsap Bank and the developer of the master plan project the comfort level that they were looking for to move forward with their agreements and the master plan project.

“I’m really excited. That’s a huge step for us.”

Putaansuu said final detailed revisions to the ILA draft are being made by the city, but he expects the agreement to be ready for City Council approval by the end of November.

KPFD decision gives the go-ahead

Not only is the go-ahead from the KPFD board a critical decision forward for the South Kitsap Community Events Center’s construction, but it gives the green light to Sound West Group, which earlier made the civic center project the linchpin for its estimated $100 million mixed-use commercial-residential development project slated for downtown Port Orchard.

And like a high-stakes game of dominoes, the decision also signals to Kitsap Bank that it can begin planning a new headquarters facility to replace its nearly 50-year-old building that sits next to the community events center site. For Port Orchard, it also means the bank’s approximately 50 employees who live and work in the city will be able to stay put.

Steve Sego, Sound West Group’s project spokesman, said the public project — the community events center — is the catalyst for the private development project.

“It [the private project] will be way ahead of the public project,” Sego said. “Hopefully within a year’s time, we’ll be close to breaking ground [on the first phase of the multi-phased project]. We don’t have to wait for the community center to be completed. We just had to know it was going to happen.”

Sego said he expects work will begin on the first phase of the private multi-use development project across the street from where the proposed new corporate headquarters for Kitsap Bank will be sited. It will include three stories of parking, plus retail space and apartments. Phase 2, he said, will be sited on the waterfront side of Bay Street and include shoreline restoration and public space.

While the private portion of the redevelopment project is poised to move forward, the public community events center project must go through a series of steps defined in the ILA that will ultimately take anywhere from three to five years to complete before its doors open. The initial first step will be a $100,000 feasibility study the KPFD will pay for, which Putaansuu said is to take between nine and 12 months to complete.

Following the feasibility study, the ILA calls for six to nine months of project planning, community outreach, and design and cost estimating, which the KPFD will pay $300,000 to complete. When that step is completed, the city will then undertake what’s called a “60% design development, cost estimate and shoreline permit submittal preparation work” task, costing the county facilities district $600,000. It’s expected that work will take nine to 12 months to finish.

After the city has secured additional funding for construction and term financing, the KPFD board will allocate the remaining $9.5 million toward the center’s construction.

Putaansuu said the city parks plan update will be completed in parallel with the community events center’s feasibility study. Both will include input from the community, he said.

“We need to find out what our community would want,” the mayor said. “We need to hear from our community.”

Putaansuu said the community events center has one-third of its space allotted for a new, relocated Kitsap Regional Library branch, as well as one-third of its space devoted to a community center. The final third of the building’s space hasn’t yet been allocated — and that’s where community input is needed, he said.

“We’ll work through a process to determine how that space will be used,” Putaansuu said. “We’ve got all kinds of potential uses. Now it’s time to figure out in reality what our community wants.”

He said the city is looking at how Kingston planned its own civic facility. That city houses its library there and has given over remaining space to the Boys and Girls Club and for a senior center.

Sego said the Port Orchard community’s groundswell of support was a major factor in the KPFD board’s decision to fund the project. More than 100 project boosters from the city were in attendance at two of the board’s meetings this year.

“When we started a year ago, we weren’t even on [the board’s] radar screen,” he said. “There were already six projects that were in the works. We came out of nowhere and were ranked number one. That didn’t happen by accident. It happened because we worked hard and got a lot of people behind it.

“The consensus of the community was just clear. That’s the one thing that made the big difference.”