Dispatches: 6 developing stories in downtown Bremerton

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The Bremerton beat interrupts your regularly scheduled day to bring you six updates about downtown Bremerton.

1. Apartments progress: The $9 million apartment project known as The 606 is starting to grow upward. Work on the 71-unit complex, branded by its developers as “upscale,” began in November near the corner of Burwell Street and Park Avenue. As you can see (above), the stick work on floor one is coming together. The apartments are slated to be completed in September.

Another apartment complex, above the Manette Bridge, is slated to begin construction as well. Wes Larson, managing partner of Sound West Group, said they’re hoping to break ground in March on the $15 million Spyglass Hill project, which will add another 80 units downtown.

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2. Demolition looms: While those go up, one downtown Bremerton building will come down. The old storefront at 262 Burwell Street, seen at right above, will be demolished in the next few months. “Sooner rather than later,” said Vic Ulsh of Bradley Scott real estate, who represents the Bremer Trust that owns the structure.

The building has some “structural concerns,” Ulsh said, and needs to come down. It will be interesting to see what will happen within the space. (One thing it cannot become, under city rules, is parking.)

There’s a chance the building next to it (to the left) might be torn down as well. They were both once occupied by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

And of course, there’s also the big building on the corner: the old Bremer-Wyckoff building remains vacant.

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3. Carpenter building sells: The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters sold their building at 632 Fifth Street in November for $100,000. The 12,800 square-foot building was assessed at $464,000 but I believe had been vacant for some time. The buyer, Bremerton Investment Property LLC, lists a Bellevue address. I’ve attempted to touch base with the company agent but have yet to hear back. I’ll keep you posted.

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4. Brewery develops: Wobbly Hopps brewery continues its trek to open in downtown Bremerton, albeit at a different location. The owners, Jon and Sheree Jankowski had originally filed a liquor license application this week to place a microbrewery and taproom at 555 Pacific Ave (the Tim Ryan building), according to Tad Sooter’s Minding your Business blog. But plans have changed and now, it appears they’ve started the process to open at 260 Fourth Street, next to the old Roxy Theater. The building is owned by the Rice Fergus Building Partnership.

They’re not the only microbreweries here or considering coming here. As Sooter points out on his blog:

Another brewer is eyeing space in the same area. Jesse Wilson, an assistant brewer at Port Townsend Brewing is running an ongoing Kickstarter campaign to open a “LoveCraft” microbrewery in downtown Bremerton.

Bremerton is not bereft of beer makers – Silver City Brewery and Manette’s Der Blokken Brewery both have strong support in their own corners of town. But momentum seems to be growing for a brewery in the downtown business district.

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5. Retail possibilities: At 275 Fourth Street, a new permit’s been taken out to clear space inside. Once home to the offices of The Doctor’s Clinic, it has been vacant for some time now. The idea is to make the building, owned by The Bremer Trust, more marketable as a retail space. “You look up and down Fourth Street, and there’s momentum toward retail,” Ulsh said.

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6. A new sign: You may have noticed Tuesday that the building once known as “D4″ at Fifth and Pacific is officially no more. Crews put up a sign on the building to show off the company that recently moved in: General Dynamics. The company just got $33 million in contracts for work on the USS Nimitz, which just arrived from Everett. So I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon.

For his final years, a roof over Billy’s head in Bremerton

Billy Langham
Billy Langham

When William Langham finally got a roof over his head, it took time for him to adjust to it.

Having lived in the woods of Illahee Preserve for 10 years, the tall ceilings were simply too high for Langham, who propped his tent inside his South Court Apartment, a kind of reverse claustrophobia.

“He had been hiding away in a tent in the woods for such a long time, he wasn’t sure about taking the first step,” said MaryAnn Smith, a social worker with Taking it to the Streets Ministry.

But adjust he would, and for the final eight years of his life, Langham had greater security and a restored dignity, those who knew him say.

“He kept his apartment in very good condition,” Smith said. “He valued what he had … I was so proud of Billy, when I moved, he stepped up and paid his own bills and kept his cable and power on.”

His life was not perfect. That he was found in his apartment a few weeks after he had died speaks to a certain loneliness, some who knew him say. His penchant for Hurricane beverages fed his alcoholism.

Pancreatic cancer ultimately took the 52-year-old’s life.

But Billy, as he was known, was charming and quite skilled. He was a gentleman who could play guitar and  fix anything, according to neighbors Judith Holden and Corinna Maroney.

“He was a very genuine man,” Maroney said.

“He had so many skills, talents and abilities,” said Beverly Kincaid, a grant writer. “The fact he didn’t have a roof over his head did not define him.”

Kincaid took a chance on Billy. She had met him while doing a project, finding Billy in his tent in the woods of East Bremerton.

Kincaid took it upon herself to arrange Billy’s services, held recently at the Salvation Army he frequented for meals and social nourishment. She got in touch with his family and paid more than $200 to have an obituary placed in the Kitsap Sun.

If Kincaid made sure he had dignity in death, Smith ensured it in his life. After all those years  in the woods, she fought to get him disability benefits that finally put a roof over his head.

It’s easy to think the homeless might just want to live in the woods. But that’s an often faulty assumption, homeless advocates say. His quality of life was much better inside a home.

“I could tell by the way that Billy talked, that he was tired of being in the woods, wondering where his next meal was or where to go,” Smith said. “I believe that the homeless need a place to call home, not just another tent.”

There’s growing research that society is better off financially by assigning a case worker and a room to anyone on the street, then to react to them when crises emerge. Utah is leading an effort to end homelessness using this strategy.

“From our experience, once basic necessities like housing are met, then we can start addressing other barriers in their life,” said Kurt Wiest, executive director of Bremerton Housing Authority. “The vast majority of those without housing would thrive if given that place that is their own.”

We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, many of the homeless in the woods around Kitsap will continue doing so, just as Langham did for a decade.

IN PHOTOS: Redwood rendezvous in Bremerton

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Photo of the big Sequoias on Veneta Avenue by Steven Fisher.
Sometimes, the answers just lead to more questions. 

On Saturday, I led a group of more than 50 people on a tour of two prominent urban Sequoia trees, those pointy Bremerton landmarks on Veneta Avenue. I was thrilled with the turnout, which included two tree experts in Jim Trainer and Olaf Ribeiro.

The bottom line: the trees are digging up the roadway underneath them and most people — including Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent — support taking out the road and making it a pedestrian path.

There are no immediate plans on the table.

Photo by Steve Fisher.
Photo by Steven Fisher.

Our tour Saturday took us from Kiwanis Park down to Veneta Avenue, where we talked about, measured and touched the trees themselves. Ribeiro is still doing some analysis on their width and age.

Our arborists gave different ages of the trees, so that’s still a mystery. Their height is still a bit in dispute, too. And how come they have that pinecone shape?

There were other questions that came up. So I’ve got more work to do. In the meantime, enjoy these photos.

Oh, and those who came out: be sure to drop a note to let me know how you felt it went.

Photo by Rhonda Oberholtzer.
Photo by Rhonda Oberholtzer.
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Photo by Steven Fisher.

Happy 93rd birthday, Bob Montgomery!

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Even on his 93rd birthday, Robert “Bob” Montgomery is hard at work today on the fifth floor of a building on Fourth Street, taking on a job a precious few still do. 

Granted, the typewriter repairman — in business for almost 70 years in Bremerton — had some well wishers today, including Don Feldman. Feldman, a collector of old typewriters, dropped him off a present: a German-made Continental Silenta.

Montgomery has many great stories to tell. Last year, Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent proclaimed March 12 “Bob Montgomery Day,” for his many contributions. He’s also been active in the theater community since 1950. The Seattle Times penned a piece about him last year as well.

He is, in short, a Bremerton legend.

Happy birthday, Bob!

Bremerton police blotter: Jan. 4-16

We’ll begin this week’s Bremerton police blotter with a burglary suspect. The above video shows a man inside the building at 423 Pacific Avenue. As you may know, there have been a spate of burglaries in the downtown area in recent weeks. If you think you may know who this person is, Bremerton detectives ask you to call (360) 473-5228.

It looks like we are seeing an uptick in property crimes around the city. At Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan gave the updated crime stats. There were seven incidents of shoplifting in December 2013, compared with 15 in December 2014, for instance. Vehicle prowls were up from 13 to 23 in the same period; car theft from 12 to 22. Strachan revealed the last stat was a countywide problem, mostly at health clubs, that is being investigated.

Strachan believes it is the work of a few at the cost of the many.

“A small number of people can do a whole lot of it,” he told the Council.

Here’s some crime reports filed with police in January that I think you should be aware of:

Car theft, 3800 Wheaton Way: An employee at a car dealership Jan. 4 said a man test driving an Infiniti I30 never returned to the lot with the car. Police had no suspects at the time of the initial report.

Discharging weapons, 3000 Halverson Avenue: Witnesses captured on camera Jan. 9 two people shooting a pellet rifles. Police investigated the shootings, finding a man and his son were shooting an air rifle. The man understood that it was against the law in Bremerton to discharge such weapons and told the officer he would inform his son, too.

Possible theft, 3000 Wheaton Way: A 911 caller reported a man breaking into vacuum cleaners at Shur Kleen Car Wash Jan. 10. When police arrived, the man there said someone else had gotten into the vacuum cleaner doors and that he was simply looking for change. Trash was strewn about the area. An officer told him to clean up the trash and leave. No arrests were made.

Bike theft, 1100 Naval Avenue: A man reported his bike stolen. He’d parked it in the yard of his home and it was gone by nighttime Jan. 10. He did not know the make, model or serial number. Police have no suspects.

Not the right guy, 6th and Warren: An officer thought he recognized a man at the bus stop near Bank of America who had a felony warrant for his arrest (date unknown). The officer approached and the man appeared elusive. The officer asked his first name and it was the same as the suspect. But once in handcuffs, the officer learned that the man had a different last name than the suspect. He was released. The officer showed him a mugshot of the suspect, to which the man replied, “Wow, we do look alike,” reports said.

Gas siphoning, 4800 Auto Center Way: A man reported Jan. 13 that someone picked a lock and was siphoning gas from a Franz bakery van. The suspect left the scene quickly in a Chevrolet pickup. About three gallons were taken. Police were unable to find the suspect.

Argument turns heated, 2700 Clare Avenue: Police were called Jan. 13 to Bremerton Health and Rehabilitation Center, where a woman’s wheelchair got tangled up with another woman’s walker as they were outside smoking. Threats were made but both ultimately calmed down and police determined their actions weren’t criminal.

Switched license plates, 10th and Roosevelt: An officer found an Oldsmobile Jan. 13 on Dill Way whose license plate belonged to a Honda. When he returned to the property to inquire about it with the car’s owner, the car was gone. Three days later, the cop found the Oldsmobile again, following it for some time around west Bremerton. The car’s driver hopped out at 10th and Roosevelt but the officer ultimately found him. The man said the plates were switched because he was “working on” the Honda for a friend. He had a straw and empty zip lock baggie in his pocket, and three driving-related warrants for his arrest (he has a suspended license). The officer asked why he was fleeing. He said he wasn’t but later admitted he was “frustrated over being stopped by the police,” reports said. He was taken to the Kitsap County Jail.

Here’s one from Chief Strachan’s weekly report of note:

Last week, Officer Kelly Meade helped get a resident off the Warren Avenue Bridge who was threatening suicide, and this week it was Officer Cory Ditmer who was sent to the Manette Bridge on a report from the family of a 17 year old girl who was distraught and said she was going to jump off the bridge.   Officer Ditmer arrived and asked the girl to stop, which she ignored and continued walking.  Officer Ditmer physically detained her for her safety.  It was learned she was distraught over a boyfriend.  She was taken to the hospital.

And finally, here’s the weekly High 5 and Filthy 3 list. Enjoy the week.

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IN PHOTOS: A new public beach in East Bremerton?

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Plans are underway to build a 16-unit condo complex on Campbell Way, near Harrison Medical Center. The developers, who want to build it this year, told me they’re excited at the chance to construct along the bluffs of the Port Washington Narrows.

Even if you don’t buy a unit at the to-be-named complex, Bremertonians may still have reason to celebrate: the developers are being asked by the city to put in a trail to the waterfront for public access.

To my knowledge, the nearest beach access to that area is Lent Landing and Lions Field.

Here’s some photos of what will be torn down and what it would be replaced with, under plans by iCap Pacific Homes.

This home, at 1231 Campbell Way, would be razed for the new development.
This home, at 1231 Campbell Way, would be razed for the new development.
Here's the same home from its backside, atop the bluff overlooking the Port Washington Narrows.
Here’s the same home from its backside, atop the bluff overlooking the Port Washington Narrows.
Here's what the developers hope to build. Design by Fisher Architects.
Here’s what the developers hope to build. Design by Fisher Architects.
A side view.
A side view.
And finally, a bird's eye view.
And finally, a bird’s eye view.

Let’s talk about trees

Veneta trees

On Saturday, we’ll hit the streets of West Bremerton to visit Veneta Avenue’s storied Sequoias. I hope you can come along on this free tour, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday at the picnic shelter at Kiwanis Park (1701 Fifth Street).

We’ll tour the two pinecone-shaped trees, ones whose future we recently wrote about in the Kitsap Sun. Bring your walking shoes; our city hike will be no more than a half mile or so.

I’ll have Jim Trainer, famed Kitsap County arborist, along to talk about the Sequoias, and we’ll discuss the history of the area as well. Plus, our theories about about how the trees, not native to Puget Sound, got there.

Maybe on the way back, we can try out Kiwanis Park’s new 30-foot slide, too.

See you Saturday!

The details:

What: Veneta Avenue Sequoia Tour

When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24

Who: Yours truly, along with Arborist Jim Trainer and some other special guests

Cost: FREE

The mystery of the red star on Chester Avenue

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While doing a story at the Frank Chopp apartments last October, I looked across the street to find a faint but visible red star in the concrete off the sidewalk. 

The star, at the base of the steps to the home at 711 Chester Avenue, intrigued me. Where did it come from? Why was it there?

711 Chester Avenue's star.
711 Chester Avenue’s star.

I turned to the power of social media, specifically the “If you grew up in bremerton, WA … remember when …” group, to help. There’s more than 7,800 members in the group and while I did not exactly grow up in the city, its administrators graciously adopted me.

After posting a photo of the star, the response was incredible — nearly 150 comments and it hasn’t been up a day yet. Already, people who’ve lived there, and even a woman who says here grandfather built the home in the 1920s, have contributed (thank you Kelly Storm!).

But we’ve not yet solved the mystery of the red star.

Here’s the going theories at this point:

“The Red Star gained its name and reputation from sailors visiting Fell’s Point. They docked, lonely and water-logged, hoping to find some of the comforts of home. The sailors knew Fell’s Point was a good place to find a warm meal and a cold ale, along with more “intimate” necessities. The blue laws of the time prohibited the customary red lights in the district… so resourceful women painted nautical red stars on the sidewalks leading the sailors to their doors. To the lonely men’s delight, The Red Star was born.”

  • The U.S. Militaria Forum says red stars represent “missing or captured” soldiers.
  • Some kind of tradition by the builders of the home?
  • A safety measure for children, that signified a safe house for them to go?
  •  Perhaps something to do with the Red Star of David?
  • And I would be remiss to not mention the red star’s connection to communism.

My inclination thus far is that it’s indeed something to do with missing or captured soldiers. But I want to verify that and ultimately find out how it got there and, if that’s true, who it’s for.

I turn to you, further, dear readers, to help us unravel this mystery.

PHOTOS: The Nimitz has finally arrived at the Shipyard

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The USS Nimitz passes by the shipyard’s iconic crane Tuesday.

 

Right around high tide today — as these things often happen — the USS Nimitz supercarrier arrived in Bremerton’s Sinclair Inlet. 

There, she’ll spend the next 16 months getting maintenance at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The Nimitz is no stranger to overhauls, nor is she a spring chicken. The carrier was commissioned in 1972, I’m told. It took the nuclear vessel a little longer than expected to get here, too, but here, she is.

I snapped a few pictures at city hall, atop the Norm Dicks Government Center, this morning. If you’d like to add a photo to this gallery of its arrival, ship me a note at jfarley@kitsapsun.com.

Reporter Tristan Baurick snapped this shot from the south end of Bainbridge as the Nimitz approached.
Reporter Tristan Baurick snapped this shot from the south end of Bainbridge as the Nimitz approached.
Patrick Kerber took this great shot from South Kitsap, as the Nimitz rolled by some waterfront homes.
Patrick Kerber took this great shot from South Kitsap, as the Nimitz rolled by some waterfront homes.
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Here’s another shot of mine, as the Nimitz goes past the “Building on a Proud Tradition” building.
Bobby Davis was on the ferry as the Nimitz rumbled by.
Bobby Davis was on the ferry as the Nimitz rumbled by.
Connie Haworth took this photo from Bay Street in Port Orchard.
Connie Haworth took this photo from Bay Street in Port Orchard.
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One last shot of mine of the crane and the vessel.

Fences and street lights come to Lower Wheaton Way

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You may have noticed the two cyclone fences that were added to Lower Wheaton Way recently, as part of the city’s $3.4 million improvement project there. The fences were added at East 16th Street and where the road crosses Schley Canyon (pictured).

This week, the project’s prettiest feature will begin to be installed: the road will be dotted with 30 foot tall decorative street lamps that look a bit like the ones on the Manette Bridge.

UPDATE, Jan. 15: The lampposts have been delayed again due to a late shipment from a supplier. They’re estimated to be installed now sometime after Jan. 22.

The project, which began late last spring, has installed a behemoth of a sidewalk down one side of the road (and a smaller one on the other side) to go with other pedestrian improvements. In the spring, the stretch will get paved as temperatures warm and bike lanes will be installed.

The goal of the project is to further solidify the city’s Bridge to Bridge trail concept.

Here’s how I characterized all the work getting done in an earlier story. Most all of this work has been completed, unless otherwise noted:

— A new sidewalk will be added on the eastern side, along with crosswalks at 18th and Schley Boulevard (to go with the existing one at 14th). The crosswalk at 18th will include flashing yellow lights to warn motorists of a pedestrian crossing. Work on the sidewalks is expected to begin in mid-August, though the city has scheduled earlier work on portions outside a select number of businesses along the stretch to be less disruptive to them. Work on both sidewalks will begin in August.

— Lights on the corridor will more than double to 37 from 17. They’ll be 30 feet tall, decorative — similar to the ones on the Manette Bridge — and come with LED lights. They won’t be installed until October January, late in the project.

— A new intersection will be built where Lower Wheaton meets Cherry Avenue and Lebo Boulevard, near Harrison Medical Center. The traffic light there will be deactivated Friday and converted to a four-way stop. Additional intersection work won’t take place until August.

— Lower Wheaton’s two intersections with Winfield Avenue and 14th Street will become one. Winfield and 14th will merge together and form a new roadway that will cut a small triangular park in half where it meets Lower Wheaton. The idea is to make it so Lower Wheaton pedestrians and bicyclists only have to cross one intersection, not two. The former road ends of Winfield and 14th will be landscaped with trees. That work is slated to begin in August.

— Like the intersection above, the one where 18th Street and Marlow Avenue come into Lower Wheaton also creates a triangular green space. Instead of making a new road, 18th will be reshaped toward the south to meet Lower Wheaton perpendicularly, and Marlow, between Lower Wheaton and 18th, will be closed. That work, too, will start in August.

— Much work will occur underground as well. Pipes that connect to the city’s sewer main that runs under the road will be replaced, though only a 50-foot portion of the main itself, near 14th Street, will be replaced. That work likely will occur in July.

— The road’s water main will largely be untouched, determined to have much useful life left in it. But crews will be installing one new portion of the main, near the intersection with 14th, this summer as part of a separate project.

— New stormwater catch basins will be added to Lower Wheaton, between the Manette Bridge and 16th Street, to give the road better drainage. That work begins immediately. Once it’s complete, crews will move to the other end of the project and install a new 650-foot stormwater main at Lower Wheaton’s intersection with Campbell Way, also to improve drainage.

— Paving the road surface is slated for October Spring 2015.