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Underground parking garage eyed

While visitors to downtown Port Orchard can always find a place to park, the fact that most available spaces are nestled along the waterfront suggests to many a lack of planning and a waste of resources.

The city continued the process to correct this impression on Tuesday night by designating a downtown area for the construction of a combination parking garage and municipal structure that would change the both parking and behavioral patterns.

The area for the parking garage is loosely between Bay Street, Sidney Street, Prospect Street and Frederick Street. Depending on the design, the city would purchase any number of properties and level existing buildings (it already owns some of the property involved).

The planning process, now beginning, will evaluate the size of the building, the functions included and the ability of the land to accommodate the structure.

What seems certain is that the parking will be underground and contain several levels. And it will be topped off by a municipal structure, most likely a library or another public building.

Planning Director James Weaver said the structure would emulate the library/parking combination used in other cities, such as Salt Lake City and Seattle.

It also could resemble the recently constructed Poulsbo Library, where the building reflects a regional flavor.

Another possibility, as discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, is to incorporate a restaurant or a coffee shop into the plan, to make it more of a meeting place.

Port Orchard Librarian Kathleen Wilson said the downtown library is at capacity and was excited about the possibility of expansion into a new building.

“This will be more than just a place to park your car,” she said. “It will be a great public space and could contain an auditorium and other places where people can meet.”

Weaver said the best-case scenario will require at least three or four years of planning and construction. He said the public would be able to provide input at every juncture.

Heather Cole, who operates a downtown bed-and-breakfast, said the parking garage would enhance the flavor of downtown. “I am strongly in favor of this,” she said. “Even if it might change the view from my house.”

Once the parking garage is constructed and the library relocated, bayside development would be wide open. The current parking lot could become a park, with downtown businesses reconfigured to face both the water and Bay Street.

These plans, also, are well in the future and will depend on a series of events that are not yet determined.

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