Once-dying Wheaton Way ‘a lot better than it was,’ councilwoman says

Leslie Daugs in front of the new, 160-unit apartment development along Wheaton Way.
Leslie Daugs in front of the new, 160-unit apartment development along Wheaton Way.

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.”

Last one to leave, please turn the lights out.
Last one to leave, please turn the lights out.

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.

The city’s planning commission and City Council also loosened rules on drive thrus, and within a year or so, McDonald’s, Kitsap Bank and a new Starbucks opened. Shari’s was also remodeled.

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?

New roof on the old gym.
New roof on the old gym.

4 thoughts on “Once-dying Wheaton Way ‘a lot better than it was,’ councilwoman says

  1. Wheaton Way is getting incrementally better. It could be much farther along but so much of the focus economically has been on the 6 blocks around the Norm Dicks Building. Also the diversion of nearly all the Community Block Grant money for this next cycle into the hands of downtown developers who are already rich and away from small businesses on Wheaton Way has continued to keep the pace of improvement at a crawl. I have had my disagreements with Ms Daugs in the past, but she is the voice that is needed on the council to keep reminding all of them and the Mayor that Bremerton is so much more than just downtown.

  2. Many businesses and offices are looking to relocate. DSHS will need to relocate from it’s 6th St building (Olympic Center) in the next couple of years and perhaps consolidate with other offices. Harbor Freight Tools is looking for a Kitsap location. Wheaton Way could be a host for such activity, but the political climate (and taxation) has to be right

  3. Yes it has improved but a lot more needs to be done. With renewed growth comes the responsibility of providing functional traffic circulation. From Burwell to Riddell hwy 303 is nothing short of frustration, get past Riddell and heavy traffic is managed effectively. Why? Limited access north of Riddell queues traffic volumes efficiently vs the excessive access points along the corridor in the City creating inefficient flow. The new Wheaton Way Apts and Transit center Will undoubtedly exasperate the existing problem. Councilwoman Daugs would do well to focus her attention on working with the fronting property owners to develop shared ingress/egress points and eliminate those that are redundant. Its a win win situation and doable. Long term planning should focus on extending the limited access Charleston Beach Gateway project down 6th St (even the suggestion of a road diet on 6th exposes a lack of competency) up Warren Ave, and terminating at Riddell Rd., Again, limited access being the focus. Creating a desirable path of least (or less) resistance thru the City will encourage those to come into the City instead of bypassing it.
    I have followed Ms. Daugs as a Councilwoman and appreciate that she blazes her own path, asks questions, and applies common sense instead of rubber stamping ideological nonsense. While not well connected politically I would like her to make a run for Mayor.

  4. Incrementally better, but…. The City should focus on how to fix the already congested Wheaton Way/Warren Avenue traffic and business corridor which offers too many entrances/exits off/to Wheaton Way, appalling and distracting signage, and empty buildings falling into disrepair. Structures built in place of the once beautiful farm land and wetlands (unfortunately filled for “growth”) environment have been abandoned for years and left as eyesores for the community. Another 160-unit apartment complex? Great – we could use more cars on the already inefficient corridor. Such a concern for growth in this area without any apparent concern for the fact that we cannot afford to take care of the community members we already have and we do not have efficient roadways to handle more traffic (let alone the existing traffic). Roads go without repair, buildings left abandoned for years, communities needing improvements being ignored for the downtown district, etc. This used to be a community filled with people who cared about and looked out for one another. Now it feels like the City is more concerned for the potential new community members than their existing community members.

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