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Kitsap Transit has 90 days to vacate Kitsap Mall
When Jan Bourhill stepped off the bus in front of Kitsap Mall in Silverdale Monday, it was her first time out of the house since she had surgery a month ago.
Doctor's orders kept her inside, and in a body brace for two more months, so the simple trip to the mall was more than a simple trip to the mall.
Because Bourhill cannot drive while in the brace, she relies on the bus to bring her from her Poulsbo home. She planned to walk around indoors and browse the shops as part of her rehab.
"This is a real God-send for people to be able to come here," Bourhill, 62, said of the Kitsap Transit bus that ferried her. "Otherwise I'm stuck at home."
The convenient drop off spot by the west entrance may be lost to riders like Bourhill next year.
Kitsap Transit was informed in a Nov. 8 letter that the agency has until the middle of February to vacate current operations on the west side of Kitsap Mall to make way for a new store.
"This is completely out of the blue for us," John Clauson, service development director for Kitsap Transit, said Nov. 26. Clauson said the transit agency is investigating options for a new transfer station near the mall, but has not found one yet.
Marilyn Wade, 77, of Bremerton was out shopping with her grandson the day after Thanksgiving and said she would not come to the mall if the stop is moved off the premises.
"How are people going to go shopping? Roller skating?" Wade said. "I would not walk up and down the hills to come here."
In the letter, mall management said Kitsap Transit had 90 days to vacate its stop. The current agreement allows buses to operate on mall property and maintain a bus stop.
The letter from Senior Property Manager Rene M. Morris says the west entrance will be "transformed" in the beginning of next year to make way for a new retail store.
"The Transfer Station will no longer be feasible on the property," Morris wrote.
Morris said in an interview that construction to the west entrance will begin in January. There is a potential, however, for a bus stop relocation to other parts of the mall, she said.
"The new retailer doesn't want a transfer station in front of his place," Morris said, declining to identify the new retail store.
Clauson is now exploring options for the bus stop relocation. The current stop is on the west side of the mall by the flag plaza. Mall management indicated that they would look at other areas on mall property to relocate, but at this time have not suggested anything specific, Clauson said Monday.
Ideally, the transit agency would like to find a place that would not require significant revision of bus schedules and still provide easy access for riders, Clauson said. He added that he is in talks with a property owner for a long-term facility in Silverdale.
"As of right now we do not have a definite alternative," Clauson said.
Eight different bus routes and one ACCESS route make stops at the mall. Kitsap Transit has been operating on mall property since the mall first opened, said Clauson. Kitsap Transit pays an annual maintenance fee of $5,000 to $6,000 to Kitsap Mall.
Like Bourhill and Wade, Jim Haney of Silverdale agreed relocating the bus stop off of mall property would inconvenience many people and make the trip impossible for some.
"I think the mall is being short-sighted," Haney said. "Even though bus riders are lower income, they're still customers in the mall."
Customers are not the only ones with concerns of the relocation. Mall employees recognize that not only do many shoppers use public transportation, but they do as well.
Andrae Gelito works at Radio Shack in the mall and commutes to work everyday by bus from East Bremerton.
"That sucks," Gelito said Monday on the possible stop relocation away from the mall. "I haven't heard anything about this."
Gelito added that the bus drops him off at the mall about 10 minutes before his shift starts and if the stop is placed away from the mall, it could interfere with his schedule.
Another mall employee, Cherry Morse, said that a lot of customers — including seniors, those with disabilities and those who cannot afford to drive — rely on the bus as transportation to get to and from the mall.
"It's the mall that's going to suffer," Morse, a business manager at Cinnabon said.