Some movement has been made to begin the long process of redeveloping downtown Port Orchard.
On Feb. 13, the City Council unanimously approved a proposal by Waterman Investment Partners, LLC to redevelop the empty city-owned lot at 640 Bay St.
Council members got their first look at the group’s proposal. Waterman wants to build a 55,000 square-foot, five-story residential/commercial use building that will benefit Port Orchard in a number of ways. The proposal calls for the bottom floor to be occupied by the Port Orchard Library, which will be a nice upgrade for library users and staff. The upper floors will house at least 44 mid-priced apartment units, offering downtown businesses a boost with an influx of new city shoppers, albeit modest in number.
Another probable tenant will be a 3,000-square-foot restaurant situated next to the new library space. Rumor has it the new tenant negotiating for space is an existing Bay Street restauranteur. But what’s most significant is the project is a visible indicator that the downtown area is finally making the slow turn toward becoming a modern, enticing draw for shoppers and folks seeking a place to relax and socialize.
The first step in Bay Street’s resurgence is next month’s opening of Josephine’s Mercantile in the former Port Orchard Pavilion space, across the street from the new development. Both corners at Frederick and Bay streets are prime spots for business in the heart of downtown.
640 Bay St. has remained vacant since the fire in 2013 that gutted the second floor of Los Cabos restaurant. In the interim, city officials made a modest effort to spruce up the lot with a white picket fence and some picnic benches.
Mayor Rob Putaansuu and other city officials hope this project is the first of several that will transform the downtown area. The proverbial pump has been primed for additional mixed-use commercial/residential projects. The city government revised its development code regulations and design standards last year to better accommodate the influx of mixed-use development. And in a timely development, a pilot project offering incentives to developers of affordable living units is set to go into effect April 2.
It’s exciting news. Kudos go to Waterman Investment Partners, who are taking a leap of faith by investing millions into the project, and to Mayor Putaansuu and the City Council for their persistence and patience in reaching this first step so that other developments in the future benefiting the city can take shape.