New SK shopping center seeks to raise the bar for strip malls

The new Orchard Court shopping center on Mile Hill strives toward accessibility, convenience and style.  - Courtesy photo
The new Orchard Court shopping center on Mile Hill strives toward accessibility, convenience and style.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A new South Kitsap retail center seeks to correct a design flaw of the average local shopping center by creating easy access, proximity to the road and compelling architecture.

“We were looking to create a unique, contemporary design,” said developer Adam Simon, who is the contractor for Orchard Court on Mile Hill Drive. “We wanted it to have a northwestern feel, and look different than the average strip center.

“A lot of shopping centers haven’t been planned for convenience or accessibility,” he said. “It’s often hard to tell which stores are there from the street. ”

Such transparency is necessary, according to Simon, because, “A lot of people plan their lives to the second and want to shop at places where they can easily get in and get out.”

Simon, who grew up in Seattle but has been visiting Port Orchard since he was a child, has always liked the area.

He feels his current location offers one of the best business opportunities because, “Mile Hill is the backbone of Port Orchard. A lot of businesses go for highway access, but more people actually live around here.”

The building began construction in September 2007, before the economy began its difficulties.

Simon was always optimistic about getting tenants, but as the finish date approached no one had yet made a commitment.

So he went door to door, visiting “almost every business in Port Orchard.” 

Currently, the building has leased four of a potential seven or eight tenant spaces, with tenants including the Pizza Factory, 911 Driving School, Viridian Art and Framing and the Jackson Hewitt tax service.

“We offer good access to ample parking,” Simon said. “We’re close to the movie theater, and a lot of other stores and restaurants.”

Simon said many businesses he contacted wanted to stay put, but his four new tenants appreciated the advantage of a more accessible location.

Both the driving school and the pizza parlor will benefit from a proximity to the high school.

Additionally, Pizza Factory owner Scott Nelson feels the new center is a much better location than its current home on Piperberry Lane near the skating rink.

Nelson, who has owned the business for about a year, thinks he has taken it as far as it can go. People driving north on Bethel will pass his sign and have no way to turn into the parking lot, and it’s too much trouble to turn around.

The new facility has easy entrance and exit, both for customers and delivery drivers.

The new 3,200-square-foot Pizza Factory, which is scheduled to open in June, will include a meeting room equipped with audio-visual equipment for catered seminars.

Such an event will be less expensive at Pizza Factory than at a posh hotel — even if there were such facilities in Port Orchard.

Simon plans to landscape the front of the building with a plaza and benches, giving people a place to gather in warmer weather.

Artistic lighting design will also make the site look attractive at night.

Nelson said his decision to move has already generated positive feedback from his customers, that “whenever I describe the building to someone they already know where it is.

“I wouldn’t start this project in today’s economy,” said Simon. “But we have a good product here, and I know we can succeed.”

The formal ribbon-cutting is scheduled for noon on March 2, and will include Mayor Lary Coppola and other local officials.

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