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City, schools might pull big land swap

It’s win, win, win.

A complex, three-way land swap between three government entities could get Bremerton Schools a new middle school, the city of Bremerton a new parks and recreation center, and the Bremerton Housing Authority more high-quality affordable housing.

Informal talks have been going on for a year. Plans may be drawn up early next year and ground may be broken on various projects a year or so after that, said officials with the three agencies.

The whole deal is a little complicated, which is why it’s taking so long.

“It’s all very preliminary,” said Kathleen McCluskey, director of administrative services for Bremerton. “There’ve been no agreements yet.”

There are no final figures on costs, she said.

Here’s the broad plan:

l The Bremerton Housing Authority (BHA), which operates under the aegis of the HUD, would give up some of the West Park low-income housing to the Bremerton School District for a new middle school (grades 6-8) so that the school district can better serve students in West Bremerton. There are currently about 640 housing units in West Park, which is located near the southwest corner of Kitsap Way and Shorewood Drive.

l The city would give much of East Park in Manette to the BHA so the housing authority could develop quality low-income housing to replace that lost in West Park. The city was given East Park nine months ago by the federal government with the provision the land be used for affordable housing, government offices or schools. The ramshackle housing at the site was raised in the late 1990s. The 44 acres on a hill off Campbell Way roughly surrounds the YMCA.

l The school district would then give the city its old 74-acre junior high school on Wheaton Way and the city could develop this into a large parks and recreation center. This would be in addition to the city’s recreation centers on Lebo Boulevard and at the senior center in Manette.

“East Park is a great piece of view property,” said McCluskey. “There could be multi-family condos and townhouses. It would be low-income but quality low-income.”

She said some government offices might be included. She cited Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, as the force behind getting the property deeded, free of charge, to the city.

Walt Draper, director of finance and operations for the school district, said everyone is waiting on the BHA completing its master plan for West Park. He said if a new middle school is built in West Park, students from the old junior high would move over there — with the exception of the ninth-graders, who would be moved to the high School, changing Bremerton High School from a grade 10-12 facility to a 9-12 facility.

Portions of the land where the old junior high on Wheaton Way is located might be developed commercially. Draper declined to say what commercial developers have shown an interest in the property. Albertsons has long wanted to relocate at Sheridan and Wheaton on a portion of that school property. The grocery chain’s plans were recently shot down by the City Council when parking problems arose. City officials said they have not counted Albertsons out yet.

Draper said a bond issue will be needed in 2003 to build the new 20-acre middle school at West Park. It will likely be the same size as the recently built Mountain View Middle School on Perry Avenue with about 900 students.

Merrill Wallace, executive director of the BHA, said his agency is in its second phase of master planning. The planning is needed to best access how to pull off such a complicated swap and keep everything legal.

All officials involved say the swap could be very beneficial.

“We’d all come out with different pieces of land than before,” said Wallace.

Currently, officials are discussing the deal in non-public meetings until the basics can be hammered out. Eventually, before any final decisions are made, the public will be invited for input, he said.

The housing units at East Park — now gone — as well as the existing 640 units at West Park, were part of old Navy housing built during World War II. Wallace said at one point between 1940 and 1950, there were as many as 7,000 small, low-income housing units in the area.

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