Downtown renovation: Big Bang for Bay Street
By BRETT CIHON
Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer
March 23, 2012 · Updated 11:17 AM
Don Ryan wants to see foot-traffic on Bay Street. He wants restaurants. He wants bars and bustling retail stores.
Ryan, the President of the Port Orchard Bay Street Association, wants to see a lively downtown.
And he has an idea to make it happen.
“Our town has been dying for years,” Ryan said. “If it’s not revitalized it will continue to die. This plan has the power to completely change downtown.”
Since January, Ryan, 45, has quietly worked to bring an open-air public market to downtown. The market would occupy the 8,000 square-foot building at 715 Bay St. Previously Slip 45, plans have the building undergoing a complete remodel to turn the grey-and-drab into a vibrant marketplace housing a permanent seafood vendor, a beer tasting bar and 15 other market booths.
Resembling a smaller version of Pike Place Market, Ryan said the PO Public Market would operate 360 days a year and employ 50 to 60 people. Ryan hopes to have the market open to the public on July 1.
Ryan admits that such a plan for a downtown notorious for it’s slow moving, eternally for-rent nature, might sound far fetched. But he has help. Influential help.
Ryan said he has secured up to $300,000 from absentee Port Orchard landlord Mansour Samadpour for building renovations.
“Mansour is a true entrepreneur, an investor,” Ryan said. “He believes this is a viable option for downtown.”
Samadpour, a successful microbiologist with Iranian origins, took a liking to Port Orchard’s historical waterfront years ago, spending $3.7 million in buying 1.37 acres of Bay Street real estate. But instead of turning Bay Street into a vibrant marketplace, many of his buildings — including 715 Bay St. — have long sat vacant.
But that doesn’t mean the landlord has totally given up on downtown, Ryan said. After a couple of false starts, Ryan was able to cajole a meeting with Samadpour on March 13 at his office in Bellevue. There, Ryan explained to him the public market idea, stating how with Samadpour’s help a renovated Slip 45 could turn the tide for Port Orchard.
It didn’t immediately go over well, he said.
“He spent the first half hour shooting holes in our plan,” Ryan said. “But by the end, he believed in what we are trying to do.”
Since the meeting in which Samadpour tentatively agreed to offer as much as $300,000 for building renovations, Ryan has been in frequent contact with Samadpour, who has since handed Ryan the keys to Slip 45 so that Ryan, his architect Bob Kleven, contractors and an engineer could evaluate the building and develop a full set of cost evaluations for the remodel.
“He (Samadpour) wants to do a lot more in our town,” Ryan said. “In the past, he has hit a lot of roadblocks with town leadership. If things go smoothly, he is committed.”
Attempts to reach Samadpour or his properties company, Abbadan Holdings, LLC, formerly Shoush Holdings, were not successful.
Whether or not the permit process and interactions with city hall go smoothly are Ryan’s biggest concern.
So far they have worked in harmony. Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes has sent a letter to Samadpour pledging support for the project. Mark Dorsey, the city’s public works director, has met with Ryan regarding questions Ryan and his contractors, Jim and Jeff Way from Port Orchard, had about utility hookups and drainage for the structure.
Council member Fred Chang called what he had heard about the project “very exciting.”
“It fits in with the area,” he said.
Chang said the city council would help to expedite the project as it comes in, but hinted there could be some slowdowns.
“The unpredictable part is in the details,” he said. “We would want to make sure it’s safe. Safety is one of our paramount concerns.”
Ryan cautioned that heavier than expected slowdowns could kill the project faster than anything. Samadpour did mention that he wanted to see Kitsap Transit expand operations to the area and perhaps even lowering the speed limit on Bay Street in order to better serve the market, though those weren’t necessarily deal-breakers, Ryan said.
Samadpour’s number one fear is getting caught up in bureaucracy, Ryan said.
“As a business owner, I can understand that if we get stumbled up in a bunch of red tape we could stifle investment,” Ryan said. “That’s what kills these things. Red tape.”
A market with history
Owner of six business, including the One Ten Lounge downtown, Ryan sees a vibrant, yearlong marketplace as a way to boost all commerce on Bay Street.
“When the tide rises, it lifts every boat in the harbor,” he said.
Matt Carter, Bay Street Association member and owner of Carter’s Chocolates, was at the Bay Street Association meeting on March 15 when Ryan unveiled his plans.
This is a bold new move that could revitalize Port Orchard,” Carter said. “It’s too early to tell how it will turn out, but I was thinking of participating as an ice cream booth.”
Carter’s ice cream booth would be one of 15 sales booths on the perimeter of the public market. Ryan said flower shops, vegetable sellers and anybody who specialized in local food or products could rent out the booths, ranging in sizes up to 20 feet by 20 feet.
Three permanent sellers would have a bit larger spot in the market place. Ryan would use his business, Ryan Properties, LLC, to operate as property manager for Samadpour. He plans run a tasting room specializing in peninsula area brews. A and K Shellfish, a seafood wholesaler based in Tahuya, Wash, wants to come on as a market fixture. The company signed a letter of intent to Ryan regarding joining the public market earlier this month.
“Having a storefront has been in our plans,” said Alicia Fitzgerald, co-owner of A and K. “We’re excited Don got in touch with us when he did.”
All the shops would lend toward the marketplace’s walk-around design.
Don Ryan has big plans
“It becomes a fun destination,” Ryan said. “Would you rather go Albertsons or shop down at the market?”
KC Pearson, the president of the Port Orchard Farmers Market, said she didn’t view the planned market as a threat to the farmers market. They would offer different products and a different ambiance.
“I don’t think any of our members thought it would hurt us,” she said. “We think it’s a good thing to have the public market.”
Ryan said the idea came to him after touring other cities the size of Port Orchard. He plans to incorporate Port Orchard’s history, including it’s fishing and brick building, in the design. Kleven, an architect from Tacoma working on design for the project, said the building will have an open air feel. It will also keep the historic look.
“Keeping that same, historic appearance is our goal,” he said.
Kleven said the building would have big, open doors in the front and the back, exposed timber beams lining the walls and maybe even some skylights. The remodel would need to be done carefully, he said, in order to keep the permitting process as simple as possible.
“This is nothing more than a big remodel,” Ryan said.
After the contractors and engineers performed a careful evaluation on Thursday, the next step was to bring a more comprehensive site plan and cost analysis to Samadpour. Then a check could be written and the remodel, along with a rejuvenated downtown, could be underway.
“This idea is the catalyst that will spark growth in downtown,” Ryan said.
Contact Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer Brett Cihon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-876-4414.