UPDATED: Paint job rejuvenates downtown

Volunteer Cindy Allen touches up a white picket fence along Bay Street during the Paint the Town event on Sunday. - Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo
Volunteer Cindy Allen touches up a white picket fence along Bay Street during the Paint the Town event on Sunday.
— image credit: Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo

Port Orchard got painted this weekend, and supporters hope it represents a new wave of volunteer spirit that will change downtown from dingy to dignified.

“I’m really proud of everyone who came down and helped us do this,” said Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola as he touched up the outside of About Floors on Bay Street. “It says a lot about the spirit of our community.”

“This has been one of the best days of my life,” said radio personality and Port Orchard resident Delilah Rene, who organized and mostly financed the event. “It has given the people here a sense of pride and ownership. I hope we can keep this going.”

Moondogs Too owner Daryl Baldwin was pleased with the turnout, and said, “There are people down here that I’ve never seen before.”

A lot of them were locals out for a look, while some others were from out of town.

Gerald Haynes, an insurance agent from Portland, drove up because “a few of my friends called me and asked me to help out.”

The project did both more and less than expected. Painting continued throughout the week, with the Olympic Bike Shop and the Antique Mall in progress.

Last week Rene said she first expected to paint a few buildings, but that interest on the part of the property owners exceeded those expectations. They then took on some extra areas, such as About Floors, Hall and Sons Automotive, Geiger Pharmacy (which was not painted) and three houses to the east of town.

They also set to touch up the marquee, which was recently painted.

There were other obstacles, such as a positive test for lead-based paint on the marquee. This required that the area be contained and painted over instead of pressure-washed.

Rene sought to give the event a carnival feel, with entertainment provided by the Gallery School of Music and Dance and activities offered for children.

A competition was planned between the four quadrants, but this fell apart when Corliss Painting, responsible for the southeast section, pulled out due to the foreman’s family emergency.

So Ecklund Paint and Drywall, Nail Painters, and CHC Painting took up the slack.

“I’ve lived in Port Orchard all my life,” said Lucy Griesser. “This is a history-making event. Port Orchard has never had a clean up day with painting crew and volunteers to clean up our little town and make it look like the covers on Debbie Macomber’s books, which are absolutely beautiful.”

Macomber was indirectly responsible for the painting effort, since it is her Cedar Cove Days series that prompted the volunteer effort.

Rene, out of friendship and respect for Macomber, coordinated the volunteers, managed the details and contributed at least $30,000 of her own money.

An estimated 300 volunteers — including Macomber — worked throughout the day, doing everything from sloshing on paint with rollers to the fine detail work that is needed for a window frame.

The effort was coordinated from a table in front of the alley between Myhres’ and Slip 45.

“Everyone’s working really hard,” said volunteer coordinator Leah Wattree. “They come here, we send them out to do a job. They come back, and we send them out again.”

The effort has been supported since the beginning by local hardware store owner Scott McClendon, who has provided project guidance and donated $4,000 worth of paint.

McClendon said that some of the buildings required more work than projected due to their surfaces, which absorbed the paint at a greater rate.

He added there were some organizational problems that were solved.

“If you didn’t have the painting contractors here, it would have been a big mess,” he said. “It would have taken three or four weeks.”

Instead, the private nature of the project increased its efficiency and allowed it to circumvent the legislative approval process.

This was also the greatest source of discontent, as those affected by the painting were not officially notified of specific actions and were not given a clear idea of the colors to be used until immediately before painting was scheduled to begin.

Most of those participating accepted the color choice when it was presented to them, or made slight modifications.

The exception was the Veterans of Foreign Wars building, where the intention was to repaint it in patriotic shades of red, white and blue.

This did not happen for two reasons, according to local VFW commander Ted Streete.

All such actions must be approved by the membership, he explained, which meets the second week of each month.

Aside from that bureaucratic obstacle, Streete said the colors presented did not match that of the flag. The blue was too light, and the red was too dark.

“If we had used these colors, the building would not look at all patriotic,” Streete said. “We never did approve or accept this.”

Streete said the matter will probably be on the agenda for the Aug. 13 meeting, but he did not know how the membership would vote or if they would approve the colors as presented.

Design consultant Heather Cole said the unfinished work will be completed this weekend, and she is seeking volunteers to help with the touch up.

To volunteer, call (253) 225-1096.

“When people look back at this, they will think about how they were able to be a part of it,” said former Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel. “They will look at a building and say, ‘Hey, I helped to paint that.’ It will give them ownership, and they’ll want to come downtown. I think it’s very cool.”

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