Survey says: The marquee stays

After years of debating and surmising, the City of Port Orchard finally broke down and systematically asked the Bay Street property owners and entrepreneurs what they thought of the marquee.

The result? As of Monday, 15 of the 92 surveyed said they liked the marquee and wanted it to stay, as long as the city improved lighting underneath and cleaned up the rickety parts.

Others indicated no preference, but rather used the survey as an outlet for their ideas and opinions regarding downtown.

Only five wanted to see it torn down.

Obviously, the city has not received back all the surveys it distributed in April. Many of the 92 are unlikely to come back, because the city sent one survey to the owner of every property and business — not one survey to every owner.

This means the city sent out many duplicate — and even triplicate — forms to those who either owned a business in their own building or owned multiple pieces of property. Gerry Bruckart, for example, who owns Olde Central Antique Mall, the building it occupies and the Sidney Village building, received three surveys.

The city also reported a number of surveys had been returned because the businesses to which they were addressed were now defunct. All in all, it is unknown how many additional surveys could potentially be returned in the weeks to come.

At the May 27 council meeting, the council had the option of taking the available information and running with it. After a protracted debate, however, the council opted by a 4-2 vote to wait for more surveys to come back. Councilmembers Don Morrison and Bob Geiger were the two who wanted to get going on marquee repairs rather than wait for more responses. Councilwoman Carolyn Powers was absent.

Geiger, who owns Geiger Pharmacy and Bay Street’s sole movie theater, was the only city council member to submit a survey. Councilman Ron Rider, who owns and operates Harborside Bar and Grill, had not returned his as of Monday.

Geiger primarily used the survey to go into detail over the many benefits of the marquee and how it fit into his vision for Port Orchard.

“(Port Orchard) is unique unto itself,” he and his wife, Ursula, wrote. “It shouldn’t try to be Leavenworth or Poulsbo.”

The property owners who responded, even the oft-criticized ones who live outside Port Orchard, were largely strongly opinionated over the marquee, downtown in general and Port Orchard’s economy. Even those who could find nothing good to say about the marquee were unwilling to put up the money a complete Bay Street facelift would require.

“It is time to let go of the old look and let the building owners work on their own building fronts,” wrote Woody Hooser, who owns 834 Bay Street. “If we pay for something, it should be parking.”

Other landlords dismissed the marquee as immaterial to Port Orchard’s potential economic growth.

“If I raise rents, my renters leave because the flow of patrons is limited,” wrote Seattle resident and Bay Street landlord Philip Hoffman, explaining his potential difficulty in financing a major overhaul. “All towns flourish with people. Like other coastal cities having problems, they brought in people via apartments, condos, etc.”

Only one property owner spoke out in favor of demolishing the marquee.

The renters’ opinions were more evenly split, with nearly half in favor of a marquee-free downtown. Those who did favor removing the marquee often wanted to go a step further as well, addressing other aspects of downtown.

One renter wanted to change the name of the city back to Sinclair because the name “Port Orchard” “brings up thoughts of junk stores.” Another renter proposed replacing the marquee with a pergola-like structure of clear panels and wrought iron.

Nearly everyone — both those in favor of and against the “light touch” option — mentioned the marquee’s rain-sheltering effect as one of the best things about the structure. At least one respondent wanted to extend the marquee’s cover out to intersection corners to better protect pedestrians.

“You can walk down the street when it rains and not get wet most of the time,” wrote Lucent Wireless business owner Otto J. Snay. “Keep Port Orchard the way it’s always been.”

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