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City Hall finishes downtown work, plans for future

Port Orchard City Hall saw its fair share of major issues throughout 2007, drawing in crowds and subsequently spurring a downtown residential movement with growing political clout.

The Downtown Overlay District was perhaps the most visible, but while the City Council deliberated, several projects to improve the area’s downtown core were already well under way.

Community members and merchants, for example, worked to clean up Bay Street. Abandoned storefronts have been cleanly boarded up and painted, the city overlayed the sidewalk with an epoxy and stone mixture and the city and community members worked to install and fill flower pots off of the covered walkway.

Downtown merchant Brenda Kruse worked with the Port Orchard Bay Street Association encouraging building owners to spruce up the front of their buildings, and already several have received new paint jobs.

Two major store fronts were also filled this year, with The Dance Gallery moving from its former location on Prospect down to a large space on Bay Street that once housed a market for independent vendors.

Meanwhile, long-time City Councilman Robert Geiger leased his building out, which now houses a movie theater christened The Orchard, which will run independent films not meant to compete with the local Regal Theater on Bethel Avenue.

The theater opened during December by showing “The Darjeeling Limited” and “Across The Universe” and will show first-run films regularly.

The City Council approved the major ordinance regulating building heights and design standards on Bay Street, limiting buildings to 27 and 39 feet depending on the area, but allowing 39- to 55-foot buildings if property owners provide a public amenity.

The ordinance received mixed reactions from the public. Some argued that the ordinance would hurt the scenic views of those living on the hill behind Bay Street, and worried that tall buildings would create “tunnel vision” through downtown, citing nearby Bremerton as a path not to be followed.

Others felt that for downtown to thrive, developers need the added height for condominiums to make the projects pencil out.

Two local business owners, Ron Rider and Rudy Swensen, were pleased to see the document finished so they could work on developing the conjoined properties.

The incoming city council — which won’t include former members Rita DiIenno, Rick Wyatt and Robert Geiger, and welcomes Fred Olin, James Colebank and Jerry Childs — will face the task of creating overlay ordinances for the wings of Downtown to the east and west of the designated core.

Additionally, the incoming class will face determining where all the desired shoppers will park when they come downtown, especially with the prospect of residents living in each mixed-use development.

But City Hall had much more to deal with than just downtown. Public Works Director Maher Abed has been working on a number of other projects, including the expansion of the city’s gateway, Tremont Avenue, and working with the county on the revitalization of Bethel Avenue, which could be annexed by Port Orchard.

Port Orchard could also grow in population in the coming year, with the annexation of McCormick Woods back on the minds of residents. The large community sits outside of city limits, and Mayor Kim Abel approached the area to see if they have an interest in being part of the city again.

Thee community approached the city before, and Abel said she was re-opening communications.

Also coming in is new mayor Lary Coppola, who will take Abel’s seat. Abel opted to not run for mayor again this year, and has not yet decided what she will do next.

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