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Momentum builds for downtown renewal

comprehensive plan to rejuvenate downtown Bremerton and create a 24-hour city has picked up steam in recent months, despite the controversy surrounding its centerpiece — the regional government center.

For the first time since a revitalization plan was crafted for Bremerton, each of its components and their status will be presented at a public meeting, 7 p.m., Nov. 27, at the Admiral Theatre in Bremerton.

“There is a synergy, a momentum that’s building now,” said Bremerton Mayor Lynn Horton. “Now we plan to present the overall plan to the public at the meeting, as well as present the results of the Bremerton parking study.”

Information and updates on the regional government center proposed for downtown Bremerton will be presented.

So, too, will information about the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority’s waterfront housing project, the Port of Bremerton’s marina expansion effort, the shipyard’s and city’s work on the Maritime Museum and Park and the city’s proposed conference center (side story).

But, looming large is the status of the government center proposed for downtown Bremerton.

Kitsap County Commissioner Tim Botkin, who represents parts of Bremerton, says citizens who attend the meeting will get a first-time glimpse of the government center’s design.

Seattle-based LMN Architects, who designed Benaroya Hall, will present a three-dimensional design of the government center.

The housing authority hired LMN for $240,000 to do the second phase of design work for the project.

Assuming the project timeline continues without a hitch, construction on the roughly $33 million government center could begin by late 2002. The building would be located between Pacific and Washington avenues and between Sixth and Fifth streets in downtown Bremerton.

At its highest point, the 145,500-square-foot government center would stand six stories and feature a tower at its main entrance on Fifth Street. Though no final decisions have been made, officials are talking about moving the carillon chimes to the tower from the nearby Washington Mutual Bank.

“It has always been the idea to install some type of vertical landmark,” said Terrie O’Neill, the county community resources coordinator. “But those details still have to be worked out.”

On the side facing Washington Avenue, architects designed an auditorium-style council chambers, a facility to be shared by Bremerton City Council members and County Commissioners.

But with an outside entrance, the Council chambers could also be opened after regular business hours to accommodate a public function.

An information center, to be located adjacent to the main lobby, could offer citizens quick directions to the correct government function or information kiosks and public computers.

Talk has also centered on building a public-access greenspace on a terraced roof facing the Olympic Mountains.

A Pierce County Superior Court Judge could decide in the weeks ahead whether the county can transfer certain jobs and offices to the proposed government center (see Page A1).

Botkin says that decision could heavily impact the project.

“We don’t have a clear backup plan,” said Botkin, when asked what will happen if a judge rules the county can’t move offices into the regional government center. “If we thought that this project could happen without the county, we wouldn’t be involved.”

Horton, whose mayoral term ends at the new year, strongly disagrees with that assessment. She says there is enough commitment involved in the project that the regional center would be constructed, even if the county can’t participate. The idea is to create a regional center, where federal, state, county and city offices, as well as Port of Bremerton offices, could be located.

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