By Mike De Felice and Bob Smith
Kitsap News Group
PORT ORCHARD – The architectural firm tasked with creating a conceptual design for the South Kitsap Community Events Center told City Council members Tuesday night that its site selection team had selected the waterfront site where Kitsap Bank currently sits as the recommended location for the proposed facility.
Steve Rice of Rice Fergus Miller, the Bremerton architectural and interior design firm chosen by the Port Orchard City Council in July under a $400,000 contract to come up with a conceptual blueprint for the facility, told councilmembers that the site selection team used weighted criteria to decide on the optimal location for the $20 million project, resulting in a “resounding vote” for Site A — the current Kitsap Bank location.
The Port Orchard-based bank’s involvement and approval is considered an essential element of what could end up being a $200 million master plan, multi-phased project over the next decade.
The community events center, or CEC, is expected to take the form of a 24,000-square-feet complex in the downtown area. The facility will feature meeting rooms, a commercial kitchen and space for community festival events, conferences, concerts and group meetings. A new 9,000-square-foot Port Orchard branch of Kitsap Regional Library (KRL) will be housed in the center, replacing its current location just south of Waterfront Park.
The project is expected to boost the viability of downtown and be a revenue producer for the city, planners believe.
The City of Port Orchard, Kitsap County, Port of Bremerton and KRL are involved in the project.
Rice said Site A came out ahead in the most important criteria the selection team analyzed — and also graded most favorably in other important, but less, critical criteria items. The parcel’s waterfront location no doubt played a significant role in winning over the selection committee, which sought to maximize any site’s potential to integrate community interaction with the city’s waterfront amenities.
“The process was focused on outcomes,” Rice told councilmembers. “The [selection] team organized and developed a program for the CEC based on best practices input from the public outreach process that was conducted.
“Then we assembled a broad list of criteria that the selection team used to judge how well each site accommodated the goals and objectives for the CEC so we could predict an outcome and thereby the quality of a CEC site A, B or C.”
The current Kitsap Bank site, the existing Port Orchard Library location and two large parcels comprising the bank’s parking lot, including two smaller parcels and 640 Bay Street, were the three finalist locations considered by the selection team.
A portion of Site A — the current bank building location — is owned by Kitsap Bank. The other portion abutting the waterfront is owned by the state Department of Natural Resources.
As part of the architectural firm’s conceptual studies, it sought to get an idea of what people in the community want out of the facility. To gauge community opinions, a survey was conducted this fall with the help of social media.
“We are very pleased with all the great ideas and feedback our community provided. Many answers fell into themes such as improved outdoor spaces, access to the waterfront, interesting events and cultural programming,” according to survey organizers.
The most-requested element by survey participants was for space in the center to host festivals, Rice told Mayor Rob Putaansuu, city staff and councilmembers.
“The ability to host or be a touchpoint for events, whether they are held at the building or in town, was clearly important,” Rice told the Port Orchard City Council at its Nov. 24 regular meeting.
Covered areas for outdoor use were the next most-frequent request for the future center, planners said. Clearly, many of those who responded to the survey have resided in the rainy Pacific Northwest climate for a while, Rice said in an interview on Monday with the Port Orchard Independent.
The survey also asked respondents how they would use outdoor space at the center.
Some answers were:
“If there were tables available, we would bring picnics and have gatherings with friends.”
“I would use it as a coffee drinking space with friends or a remote office on nice days.”
“As a gathering space for myself and other seniors to enjoy a place to play board games in the fresh air.”
Survey takers were also asked: What gathering, learning or recreational activities should be associated with the events center?
“A true waterfront experience with enclosed and outdoor space tied to educational areas, like a marine museum, perhaps an aquarium and seafood restaurants, etc.”
“Classes for learning opportunities. Lectures from local professionals.”
“Incorporation of historical information about Port Orchard and surrounding areas.”
Some survey participants characterized the role they believe the center should play in the community.
“This center should be the catalyst for downtown redevelopment, the foundation for what downtown can become over the next 15-20 years.”
“[It should be] a marquee building that is a source of community pride.”
The firm has designed several other projects in Kitsap County. Their architects redesigned a movie theater into the newLife Training Center in Silverdale and are working to revitalize Bremerton’s Quincy Square and Fourth Street. They also designed the Centennial Building in Poulsbo and were contracted to reconfigure the Central Kitsap School District’s 900 Building to accommodate the Silverdale library and the school district’s administration.
The survey, which drew more than 1,000 responses — 613 completed surveys and 403 submitted emails — was conducted by Serotonin Creative for the project planners.
Input from the September survey will help guide the design of the center.
“[Survey results] are things we will be very cognizant of when we start to shape this building,” Rice told councilmembers.
Updates on the events center can be found on the Imagine Port Orchard website at imagineportorchard.com.
— Includes additional reporting by editor Bob Smith