Five years ago, Bremerton City Councilwoman Leslie Daugs took on a 16-year incumbent with a central issue in mind: stopping Wheaton Way’s “slow death.”
I watched her debate Cecil McConnell, the late longtime councilman, at the Cloverleaf off Hollis Street. The bar and grill overlooked a vacant former Kmart, an empty Albertson’s — which moved down the road — and a recently vacated Lowe’s, which headed north outside city limits. Daugs felt passionate about doing something about it.
“It was dying,” Daugs told me in an interview a few weeks ago, “And I wanted to make sure we weren’t going to continue to die.”
Daugs won the seat in fall of 2011. She believes the beleaguered corridor has indeed improved since she’s been in office.
“Baby steps,” she said. “It’s a lot better than it was.”
The biggest change on her watch was the repeal of the Wheaton-Riddell subarea plan, which mandated that developers make pedestrian-friendly streetscapes along the road. That proved a turnoff to almost all business. After the plan fell, Fitness Evolution moved into one of those empty buildings.
She’s applauded other changes as well — the Boys and Girls Club opening at the site of the Old East High School, the new roof for the old gym there and the school district’s plans to tear down the dilapidated school. She’s a fan of the new Super Saver grocery store and Henery Hardware, too.
She was not pleased that her fellow council members would not allow a used car dealership on a lot near Wheaton’s intersection with Sylvan Way. Daugs believes that city hall should not pretend Wheaton Way is something other than auto-centric. “It’s a big highway,” and should be treated as such, she told me.
A stronger economy has no doubt benefited Wheaton Way in the years she’s been on Council. I interviewed Daugs at the site of a 160-unit apartment complex, where a Kitsap Transit transfer station and park and ride will also be built, too. Nearby, a new day care is about to open as well.
She’s hoping the pendulum continues to swing in a positive direction.
“Wheaton Way is an area that’s definitely in need in new growth,” she said. “And whether it be apartments or businesses, we can always use that.”
What’s your take? Do you believe that the economic climate along Wheaton Way has improved?