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Big Bay St. development proposed

A downtown Port Orchard architecture firm has unveiled plans to facilitate the development of a large, environmentally friendly building that would span the 800 block of Bay Street.

A conceptual drawing indicates the building would stretch east from the former Plaza Twin Theater around the corner where Harrison and Bay Street intersect, ending at Cloise & Mike Roofing.

Richard Swartz, executive principal of Amajin Architecture, Ink, presented the drawing and its accompanying building plan to the Port Orchard City Council and the Port Orchard Planning Commission last week.

The council and commission have been meeting monthly to review and decide whether to implement changes to Port Orchard’s current building regulations to accommodate a recent slew of developers interested in the city’s downtown core.

According to Kris Swartz, viceprincipal at Amajin, the $36-million project features a building ranging from 120,000 and 180,000 square feet, with retail on its ground floor, office space above and 30 to 90 condos on the upper floors.

The building’s height would gradually increase from three stories at its west end to seven stories toward its east end, making it the tallest building in Port Orchard.

“There is an ideal of size to the building, as far as the square footage and the number of condos,” Swartz said. “But even at the maximum size, the views would be protected. We can make the building with less, but this is the ideal.”

Swartz said a number of environmentally friendly features make the building unique. Those features include turf-covered roofs, rainwater re-use, a windmill for electricity production, an internal sewer treatment system and a greenhouse that would capture solar heat.

“We are anticipating a LEED Platinum Rating for the building,” Swartz said. “There are very few buildings in the world that have a platinum rating.”

Bu according to Joanne Long-Woods, Port Orchard city planner, the building cannot be built under existing city code. She cited its height and density requirements as the two main detriments.

“Right now, according to the zoning, you can only have 12 units per acre,” Long-Woods said. “They want to go up to 60 or more.”

“We have, in our comprehensive plan, a downtown district designation,” Long-Woods explained. “What we don’t have is standards in our zoning code to allow the designation to move forward. The means to designating a downtown district is to develop standards specific to downtown, basically, defining where the downtown district would be and then creating regulations specific to that area.”

The council’s reaction to the presentation is mixed.

“I was very excited that someone had put together a conceptual drawing and stepped forward with a lot of details about what they wanted to do,” said Councilman Fred Chang. “It sounded like they were serious.”

Chang said he was on the fence regarding the actual design but found the building’s self-sustaining features “mind-boggling.”

“My feeling is that everyone is really excited whenever anyone wants to come in with an innovative project like this,” Chang said. “I think the consensus is that people would like to try to get something like this to work.”

“It’s certainly an interesting concept,” said Councilwoman Carolyn Powers. “I think it remains to be seen as to whether it’s really a fit for Port Orchard. It’s a challenge, I can see that.”

Powers said her concerns center on the building’s height but she is open to new ideas.

“I’m open, but I’m not committed to this idea yet,” Powers said. “The council has to make decisions based on everybody, not specific projects. I don’t think we’d change the regulations for one specific project.”

Councilman Bob Geiger said he is also reluctant to drastically change downtown building regulations.

“It doesn’t fit our building code and the fact that they want us to change our building code to accommodate one project is probably inappropriate,” said Geiger, who owns Plaza Twin Cinemas, located directly west of the proposed building site. “As presented, it’s something that couldn’t be done under the current law. There’s a lot of questions that come to mind.”

Councilwoman Rita DiIenno said she, like Chang, is excited that someone has stepped forward with an idea.

“I’m so excited by the progressive picturing, but I was much more in favor of it after listening to the presentation,” DiIenno said. “Someone came up with a practical idea with a fanciful view that wasn’t too outlandish and that would really ad to our downtown.”

Swartz said that the developers and Portland-based financial backers Amajin is working with on the project were very excited about the community.

“The developers actually did some research around the area and they fell in love with Port Orchard,” Swartz said. “The land is available, it’s relatively inexpensive, the town is up-and-coming, we’re close to Tacoma and Seattle.”

The Swartzes will meet with the council and commission again on March 30 for further discussion of the project and the council’s pending decision to rezone downtown.

For more information call the city of Port Orchard at (360) 876-4407 or Amajin Architecture, Ink at (360) 874-2600 or rs@amajinarchitecture.com.

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