Dale Sperling was one of more than a dozen people who gave an earful to the Bremerton City Council last Wednesday night. The 41-year Kitsap resident and longtime developer praised what he called “one of the best physical settings in Puget Sound,” with a “high value” workforce and a ferry to Seattle.
“So why is downtown Bremerton not taking off?” he asked the Council.
His answer was blight. And, aside from making arguments to the Council that night to use federal housing dollars to combat Bremerton’s “empty building problem,” Sperling has recently purchased what he referred to as the “epitome of blight.”
Sperling’s now the owner of the old Nite Shift tavern, which hasn’t been open for years. During an inspection inside a colleague of his actually fell partially through the floor — hence his reference to the epitome of blight.
The building, home to both the Nite Shift and Scotty’s taverns in decades gone by, had been bought by the owners of the Horse & Cow a few years ago. But Mike Looby and Larry Timby have found success on the recently brick-lined section of Fourth Street. In came Sperling, seeking an opportunity in downtown Bremerton. The 1946-built tavern sold for $250,000, according to the Kitsap County Assessor’s Office.
Sperling, once the president and CEO of Unico Properties, owner of around 15 million square feet of commercial real estate in the western United States, says he’s “bullish” on Bremerton and Kitsap County. More recently, he founded a company known as OneBuild, which manufactures prefabricated modular units — “everything but the toilet paper,” he told me — and then stacks them like legos into contemporary apartments.
The bulldozers should get going at the site, 242 Burwell Street, within days.
What will happen after demolition is still up in the air. Sperling, who is working through the permitting process and has presented plans to construct 30 units there, says there’s no timetable for construction. He does not want to put the cart before the horse, he told me.
If he goes forward with his plans, his project will join the list of downtown apartment projects including The 606, a 71-unit venture being constructed by Lorax Partners down the street, as well as The Spyglass Hill apartments, an 80-unit apartment complex overlooking the Manette Bridge. Other projects have been planned near Evergreen Park and on Washington Avenue as well. All told, Bremerton could have hundreds more apartments in its downtown core in just a few years.
Sperling is confident Bremerton will soon thrive. And he’d like to be a part of that. He shakes his head when he sees surface parking lots in downtown Bremerton.
“To think, the highest and best use is surface parking,” he told the Council. “It’s a complete non-sequitur.”