Development team eyes arts center

"Beginning today, Port Orchard residents will have another venue at which to buy fresh-picked produce and buy handmade goods. In the future, they may be able to make a quick shopping trip to the same area that will include a visit to an arts center.At least that's the dream of two men who own property near the South Kitsap Mall that beginning today will serve as an additional site for the Port Orchard Farmers Market. Jim Freeman, an agent with Coldwell Banker Park Shore Real Estate in Port Orchard, said the owners of the property have had a lot of discussion concerning a proposed mixed-use development envisioned for an approximately 4-acre tract of land located on Mile Hill Drive east of the mall and west of the Port Orchard Armory. In the meantime, the owners are letting the farmers market use the property to build attention for the idea of using the land as a gathering place for artists and craftsmen, Freeman said. The owners, a corporation called Mile Hill LLC formed by developers Dennis King and Tom LaBissoniere, would like to develop the property into a mixed-use facility that includes retail and commercial space anchored by an arts center, Freeman said. The two men are thinking about building a series of small buildings into a small-town configuration with studio space for artists in one building, Freeman said, which would allow room for artists to make their products, sell them and hold classes. We really want to help local folks as much as possible, Freeman said, adding that it's difficult for small folks to find affordable leasing space. We need to more to help small businesses that create primary employment. A lot of people don't think of arts as primary employment, but it really is.Whether or not the idea comes to fruition, the Port Orchard Farmers Market will have an additional site to operate courtesy of these two men. Carmen Davis, president of the farmers market, said the site will be open Wednesdays through Sept. 26 from 3 to 7:30 p.m. The farmers market, which started in 1978, currently operates Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. behind Peninsula Feed and Power Equipment, located at 901 Bay Street. They're allowing us to set up without payment to them, Davis said of Mile Hill LLC. We would love to do it in the future.Freeman, who said the investment company formed by the two men has developed other projects in the Northwest, said the proposal is very preliminary and is still in the talking stages. Among the next steps will be looking at design work and working to get needed entitlements, he said.We're trying to create a physical space and a social idea, he said. "

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