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It’s NOT Just About Downtown!

No doubt about it, Downtown Bremerton is experiencing a renaissance. Not that long ago, Bremerton's reputation was tainted with people still lamenting the migration of retail businesses from downtown Bremerton to the commercial oasis of Silverdale and the resulting impact both downtown and along the SR303 Corridor.

More recently however, the launch of Kitsap Transit's Fast Ferry, our "still more affordable than Seattle" housing and the subsequent relocation of young professionals, families and businesses to Bremerton is causing quite a buzz. Investors are also paying attention to Bremerton. The designation of downtown Bremerton as a federal Opportunity Zone has attracted revitalization investment, the result of which we can see in the development of Quincy and Marina Squares. One might think that it's all about what's going on downtown.

They'd be wrong.

We've long known that the Wheaton Way/SR303 Corridor is a challenge for our residents, local businesses and those who travel the corridor. There are empty commercial buildings in old strip malls with nothing but huge empty parking lots and middle turn lanes and intersections, both of which are scenes of serious accidents on a regular basis. Add to that the absence of sidewalks and bike lanes and the entire area is one that many just try to avoid.

And then there's the relocation of Harrison Hospital to Silverdale. All of us are wondering what the impact of that move will be to East Bremerton and the entire community.

Change is definitely coming to East Bremerton. Change brings opportunity and we believe the City has poised itself to take good advantage of this opportunity.

In partnership with the Washington State Department of Transportation and Parametrix, the City is conducting a comprehensive traffic study of the Wheaton Way/SR303 Corridor from Burwell up to McWilliams. The study will provide critical information that will be used in designing improvements to the corridor in the following areas: 1) Improve corridor safety, 2) improve corridor reliability, 3) improve pedestrian, bicycle and transit connectivity and 4) increase economic investment. Economic investment is already taking place, with the recent renovation of the old Kmart space. We want to be sure that the planning takes into consideration both current and future development.

The work plan for the study includes the integration of community input via a stakeholder advisory committee and community open houses. The Bremerton Chamber of Commerce is a member of the stakeholder advisory committee and is scheduling meetings of local businesses along or adjacent to the Corridor. We held our first meeting this week and had 20 people around the table. Concerns already included in the study were raised as well as others such as the impact of redevelopment on current commercial leases. The City will also be holding an Open House on Tuesday, August 6 from 4-7 p.m. at the East Bremerton Community Gym to which the public is invited to attend and engage with key staff and consultants to the project.

Another project, again led by the City, is focused on the impact to East Bremerton of the relocation of Harrison Medical Center Harrison Medical Center. Harrison has been the hub of business and employment in East Bremerton since its opening in 1965. Harrison has begun a transition to a new campus in Silverdale and many of the associated medical uses surrounding their facility in Bremerton are also making this transition. It is expected that the first phase of the Harrison transition will be nearly complete by 2020, with the full departure of the hospital expected to be completed by 2023.

The City is working to ensure that the area remains economically vital with both jobs and housing. Planning is in process to ensure economic revitalization during this transition and that no blighting conditions occur in our community. The Chamber will stay engaged with this project as well.

The Chamber believes these two projects convey the City's commitment to the future of East Bremerton. It's an exciting time in Bremerton...and not just downtown!

Denise Frey, President and CEO

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