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Bremerton Housing Authority finds downtown home
For the first 70 years or so of its existence, the Bremerton Housing Authority was located in the middle of the old West Park housing development. When that development was demolished, the agency made its way to a Wheaton Way strip mall.
By the end of the year, the housing authority will have a new home at 600 Park Avenue in downtown Bremerton that it owns outright.
“I think we’ve found a location that will suit us well for the next 70 years,” said Bremerton Housing Authority Executive Director Kurt Weist.
The local housing authority was founded in 1940 and now owns some 500 apartments in Bremerton and helps families that qualify for Section 8 housing live in about 1,500 other units through Housing and Urban Development subsidies.
The housing authority will pay $1.33 million for the downtown building at the corner of Sixth Street and Park Avenue. The building is the former site of the Windermere Real Estate building. The remaining real estate agents from that office now work out of Silverdale.
Weist said that the housing authority will pay cash for the building in order to avoid any onerous debt service in what could be trying years to come.
“We’ve been saving some money for an opportunity to find a permanent location for us and this building came at a time that fit perfectly for what our space needs were and what our location wishes were,” he said.
The sale, which is still being finalized, didn’t involve much haggling, as the asking price, assessed valuation and offer were all so close.
“We feel very fortunate that this building was available when we were looking,” Weist said. “We weren’t able to find anything in our short search that had anything close to what this building had to offer.”
Weist said the housing authority will also pay off a remaining $1.65 million in debt by July for its second floor space in the Norm Dicks Government Center and will pay off about $1.5 million in debt by September for a short-term loan used for the Tamarak Apartments. The new building will also eliminate a monthly rent of over $25,000 to have offices on Wheaton Way.
Weist said that his agency can’t achieve its goals and meet its mission “with debt over our head that we have no control over” and eliminating all of that debt is a longstanding tradition of fiscal conservatism at the housing authority.
“Because of (federal) sequestration and other cuts in programs is so uncertain, we wanted to be very fiscally prudent in positioning ourselves for coming years because of how lean they are likely to be,” Weist said.
The housing authority will keep about 50 employees in the government center and have about 50 more just down the street when the purchase is finalized. Weist said having the offices only one block apart will be a lot more convenient. The new building will also have plenty of parking and be more accessible for clients relying on bus service.
“I’m just thrilled to be so much closer now and only a block a way, it just helps facilitate operations,” Weist said. “Our staff on Wheaton Way are also excited about moving back downtown, particularly knowing there is parking available for them.”
While many bemoaned the relocation of a real estate office out of Bremerton to Silverdale, Weist sees the housing authority becoming part of the downtown neighborhood as a step in the right direction.
“I don’t see us as moving into downtown as a negative at all in terms of the vitality of downtown,” Weist said. “We will be bringing 50 employees into a building that would otherwise be empty. We are good corporate citizens and take very good care of our properties. It will look good and be maintained because we have ownership. We want to make sure we are part of the vitality of downtown Bremerton.”