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Downtown business owners compete for library site

The possible sale of the building housing the Port Orchard Library as surplus property has started a competition between two downtown businesswomen as to who will develop the property. At the same time, some council members have questioned whether selling the property now will cost the city money in the long run.

The 5,000 square-foot building is owned by the city was previously a post office before housing the library on a rent-free basis since 1964. In recent years the library has outgrown the space, with current plans for a new library to be constructed atop a parking garage about two blocks away.

Two of those interested in the property are Bay Street Custom Picture Framing owner Mallory Jackson, who wants to combine her business with a gallery and a restaurant, and Amy’s on the Bay co-owner Amy Igloi Matsuno, who did not disclose her specific plans.

“I have been interested in this site for some time,” Matsuno said. “I am interested in exploring all options for the property, including public-private partnerships, but want to make sure anything I do creates a win-win situation for both the city and downtown merchants.”

In a recent web post Jackson said she imagined “a chef-operated, four-star, traditional French bistro. The fare has yet to be determined, but I’m imagining artisan breads from our local bakery, a variety of cheeses, salads and of course, quiche. With the expertise of our local wine shop, we’ll offer a variety of fine wines to enjoy by the glass or bottle.”

Jackson and Matsuno were each developed their ideas quietly, until Mayor Lary Coppola wrote about the surplus idea in a Port Orchard Independent column on July 3. This led to the item being addressed at a study session on Tuesday night, at which time city attorney Greg Jacoby reported “there are very few rules about selling surplus property, aside from the requirement to sell it for a fair market value.”

In his column, Coppola suggested the building should be sold for its assessed value, which is currently $433,000. Matsuno said she has financing in place for this amount, while Jackson said it was currently in her reach.

Any purchaser of the building could then become the library’s landlord until the new building is constructed, although if the current structure continues there will be no rent collected.

At the meeting, the council instructed staff to provide specific criteria for anyone who may buy the property, with Coppola saying “we want to sell this to the person who will do the most for the city.”

Councilman Fred Olin opposed the idea of designating the library as surplus at this time, as selling low is not always a good idea.

“Common sense tells me that it is not a good time to sell this property,” Olin said. “It could cost us a significant amount if we sell it too early. The city doesn’t need the money, at least right now, so I’m thinking that maybe we should wait.”

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