What Port Orchard really needs is better curb appeal

“Dum spiro spera” (while I breathe, I hope). That was my motto after surviving breast cancer last year. And this is my motto, too, for Port Orchard.

I’m hoping that her downtown historic area will bloom into a beautiful waterfront town some day while I’m still breathing.

Port Orchard regional location is a gem for the tourist trade. Some of Port Orchard’s assets, which are listed on an architectural plan drawn up in 1983 and called the “Kasprisin Plan,” include:

• the forests, water and mountains of western Washington;

• the Olympic Mountains 30 miles to the west;

• the city of Tacoma 20 miles to the east;

• the city of Seattle 15 miles to the east by ferry;

• direct driving access to Bremerton and water access via the Port Orchard foot ferry;

• views to the southeast of Mount Rainier and to the northwest of the Olympics; and,

• employment opportunities, recreation and livability.

What more could be offered to a resident or tourist in a town like Port Orchard? Well, I’ll tell you — curb appeal in its downtown district.

So what is curb appeal and how do you get it?

As an HGTV addict, I love the show called “House Hunters.” And and of the real estate brokers on the show will tell you that if your house doesn’t look good, the buyers will drive up, take one look and drive off into the horizon whether your house is beautiful on the inside or not.

Realtors say one of the fixes for the problem is to maintain your yard. Perhaps a new paint job, shutters, window boxes and some new landscape plants wold help.

These are easy, fairly inexpensive fixes to lure people into your home.

Port Orchard’s historic district on Bay Street could have great curb appeal if the building owners dod some inexpensive fixes like repairing their buildings and perhaps adding some interesting architectural features like shutters, awnings or window boxes.

What a difference it would make if all the building owners just did that much. What great curb appeal that would give Port Orchard in and of itself.

Mayor Lary Coppola told me in a recent meeting I had with him and City Development Director James Weaver that he would soon be sending out letters to the building owners downtown encouraging them to paint their buildings before the Cedar Cove Days festival in August.

I can’t help but wonder what the festival attendees would think of Port Orchard’s curb appeal right now, not to mention the lack of interesting shops that they’d love to drop their tourist dollars in.

At this meeting, Coppola shared with me the fact that some of the building owners downtown have been uncooperative about making improvements. It seems to me these folks are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

Instead of a win-win situation for the whole town, they’re creating a lose-lose situation that is stalling revitalization plans.

What are they thinking?

I believe a domino effect could take place in downtown Port Orchard if the building owners fixed up and improved their stuructures. Once fixed up, the buildings would become attractive to merchants coming into the area.

These merchants would, in turn, set up shop in the buildings and make money from tourists and townspeople alike.

The building owners would make money from their tenants’ rent, and the city would make money from sales taxes.

Not to mention the residents of Port Orchard would start to feel proud of their town again.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that just a little elbow grease and investment can lead to great things.

But that isn’t enough. Downtown Port Orchard also needs to have a theme.

In 2007, I published a pair of Guest Opinions in the Independent suggesting a “Maritime Hertage” theme, in keeping with our view of the mighty Navy ships at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

The myriad boats moored at out marina, plus the area’s heritage with the Mosquito Fleet could also be played up.

I gave Mayor Coppola a copy of my ideas. When I asked him why the city wasn’t helping fix up the buildings, he said the city could only work on publicly owned structures, not private buildings.

It seems to me the fate of the city is in the hands of these uncooperative building owners. I scratch my head trying to figure out why they don’ realize it’s in their own best interests to make improvements.

I say pick a theme or even have a town contest to determine the best theme. Then give everyone a can of paint and a brush and tell them to get busy.

Have a contest for the best-looking building. Give out gold medals. Whatever it takes.

Just get it done.

Port Orchard deserves a chance to emerge from its cocoon and be the butterfly it’s capable of becoming.

If we all work together, it can be done.

If you want to help improve the curb appeal of Port Orchard, come to the Cleanup Day on April 19 at 11 a.m.

Bring your gloves and your tools and be prepared to take part in the beautification of our historic downtown area.

Christine Rutkowski is a Port Orchard resident.

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