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Revitalization project draws interest

Like fisherman waiting on the riverbank, Port Orchard officials are waiting to see if their request for proposals on the downtown revitalization project yields any nibbles.

Although the Port Orchard Revitalization Team finished its work on the proposal request documents last month, the city is giving prospective consultants until March 31 to send in their plans of attack. Port Orchard has $50,000 in block grant money to spend on a consultant whose sole job will be to find out why Port Orchard’s downtown suffers an image problem and suggest ways to improve it.

City officials hope the consultant’s efforts will bring a renaissance to Bay Street, now burdened by persistent vacancies and a dearth of shoppers.

Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel said even though she hasn’t received any proposals back yet, she has reason to be optimistic.

Apparently, PORT’s work attracted a lot of attention in the surrounding community. Even the idea of Port Orchard finally doing something about its floundering downtown business district was enough to get consultants’ attention, she said.

“We had a number of people sending us material and this was before the group of folks had even really met,” Abel said.

PORT, a group of 30-some representing mostly Bay Street landlords and business owners, with a few average citizens thrown in for balance, spent all of February hashing out the virtues and pitfalls of doing business downtown.

The team came up with a four-page synopsis of the key elements it wanted the consultant to work on and presented it to the Port Orchard City Council March 8.

The major elements of the synopsis — achieving “vibrant and sustainable” economic development, identifying key infrastructure elements, balancing beautification with ease of getting around — received full council support.

A smaller group, selected from the PORT participant list, will now put together the selection criteria by which the city will evaluate the consultants who respond.

Abel said the exact members of that group have not yet been selected, but said the continuing enthusiasm of the PORT members says a lot about the project’s potential for success.

“The folks on the PORT have been very willing to continue” she said, “which I feel is very indicative of forward movement (citywide).”

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