PORT ORCHARD — Is Mansour Samadpour, the Seattle microbiologist, investor and entrepreneur whose Abadan Holdings LLC property management company owns a significant chunk of Bay Street’s buildings, about ready to divest his downtown Port Orchard real estate holdings?
Samadpour was unavailable for comment, isn’t talking, nor is Abadan attorney Mary Ogborn, who didn’t return a phone call. But Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu said he has a plan in the works to find a local investment group ready to buy the downtown properties owned by the millionaire investor.
Putaansuu declined to share whether a local business and development investment group has been identified, and if so, whether it been able to negotiate with Samadpour. But the mayor did state that a new ownership group needs to include developers to realize downtown’s full potential.
“I’ve met with Mansour a handful of times,” Putaansuu said. “He’s not a developer. I believe the solution is in creating a local investment group that will just buy him out.”
The mayor said he spoke to the investor last fall as the city was developing its budget, but found Samadpour was uninterested in developing his downtown properties. “He’s told me, face to face, that he has no interest” in working with the city on a master development plan, Putaansuu said.
“(His properties are) just investment holdings for him. He’s not going to develop them.”
During the last decade, according to a news report in the Independent in October 2007, the investor purchased six downtown buildings for about $3.7 million and acquired 1.37 acres of prime downtown real estate — 27 percent of the 5.02 acres of commercial land abutting Bay Street.
Most residents are familiar with his ownership of the building that housed the former Myhre’s restaurant, which was gutted by fire in 2011. Abadan Holdings LLC purchased the structure for $425,000 in 2014.
The holding company was engaged in a number of publicized battles with Bay Street businesses that lease space in his buildings about leasing terms. The Port Orchard Pavilion closed its doors after its owners couldn’t come to terms with Abadan Holdings LLC over a new lease.
Investor, not a developer
Samadpour’s tepid interest in development, Putaansuu said, spurred his desire to find a local ownership group wanting to buy out the investor’s interests — should he be willing to sell them.
Without an investor who is also prepared to develop those properties, an effort by the city to create a master development plan for downtown would simply be a waste of money, Putaansuu said.
“We need to master plan our downtown,” the mayor said.
“We need to have all of our environmental approvals and a blueprint for downtown (lined up). To get there, it would take about a $200,000 investment (by the city).
“I couldn’t go in good faith to the City Council and ask for that money to create a plan that’s just going to sit on a shelf. It’s just not a good use of our tax dollars.”
By identifying a local investment group, however, Putaansuu said an essential piece of the development puzzle would be in place to start the process creating a master plan for downtown.
Putaansuu said that a master development plan would need to reflect current marketplace demand. And in today’s market, he said demand for retail space is outpaced by the need for housing.
“A developer is going to have an idea of what the demand is in the marketplace. We all know that a component of it is going to be housing. A developer is going to understand how much retail — what kind and where — is needed.”
Such a plan would reach well beyond the small, two-block section of downtown from Harrison to Frederick streets many define as the city’s economic heart.
“Downtown is from Port Orchard Boulevard to Annapolis to the roundabout on Bethel,” he said.
“I think it’s probably important to have ground-floor retail in that Harrison to Frederick area, but Westbay Center, for example, is a prime opportunity with the Pedestrian Pathway and a pocket park there.”
The mayor envisions Westbay Center as a prime location not only for retail space but ground-floor residential walk-up units that would open to the park.
But the process of finding a development group ready to invest in downtown properties and develop them, have it engage with the city to create a master plan, and then have various partners begin the actual work of redevelopment, involves lots of moving parts, the mayor conceded.
The City Council and the mayor also will need to revise building regulations, zoning requirements, residential density and restrictions on multi-family housing and mixed-use development.
“I think our regulations are really restrictive,” Putaansuu said.
“We need to really listen to the marketplace and let it dictate the size of dwelling units, whether there would be ground-floor retail or not.
“Our regulations for Westbay Center dictate that the bottom of that great big building has to be ground-floor retail.”
Market forces decide
Instead, he said, the marketplace needs to dictate how much retail space is needed. “Business will take care of itself and our storefronts will fill out when there are enough customers and demand for retail,” he said.
The effort would be guided by a master development plan, a public process that would include a buy-in from Port Orchard citizens, he added.
Putaansuu said he has the support of the City Council in pushing for downtown development.
“I think they are excited about getting the right thing going downtown,” he said.
“We’ve talked about taking up the zoning and density (issues) downtown, but it’s a chicken or the egg thing. We’ve got so many priorities right now and are putting energy to the things that are going to bear fruit.
“Until we change the ownership situation down there, the only thing I can do now is to pressure the current owner to clean things up and keep his buildings appealing from the exterior.”
Putting a local ownership group in place is going to take time, he said.
“(A new ownership group is) going to need some time to take control of the properties, get them leased up and then go through the (development) process with the city.”