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Officials map out site for conference center

Bids were solicited Wednesday from four development groups interested in designing and building Bremerton’s planned conference center/hotel/parking complex on the waterfront near the ferry dock.

When the development groups return their visions of how the project should be done, the first spade of dirt can be turned.

City officials said construction could start this summer, well ahead of a Jan. 1, 2003 deadline to get $6.9 million from the county Public Facilities District. The PFD is a countywide taxing district created to fund such regional projects.

Planners and the mayor gave a tour of the site Monday to Kitsap County Commissioners, PFD board members, the press and interested citizens.

Two dozen showed up for the walking tour at about 4:30 p.m. at City Hall. It was led by attorney Gary Sexton, Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman’s point man for the conference center project.

“The Navy is concerned about that tall building in the back,” said Sexton, gesturing to the nine-story “Building 290” towering behind Old Wooly’s and eight storefronts on the west side of Pacific Avenue between Burwell and First streets.

He said the Navy will tear down the buildings along that side of Pacific and give the property to the city to create “Freedom Park,” a “buffer zone” or safety area for the east corner of PSNS.

Sexton said “There’s also plans by the Navy to build a 1,000-car garage for PSNS workers (west) of here off Burwell.” The garage will presumably free-up parking for downtown merchants and their customers, said city officials.

The tour continued south, down Pacific to First near the ferry terminal.

Bozeman said the PSNS police station there would be knocked down and the base police located elsewhere in the yard. The area in general would become additional parking for the terminal.

At the Bremerton Transportation Terminal, Sexton pointed south toward railroad tracks and old brick buildings on PSNS property.

“The tracks and buildings will come out,” said Sexton, “and be replaced with a park and dock — where the (historic) Kalakala or a (vintage) sub may be moored. The park (or green belt and walking trails) will eventually spread all the way (north) to Evergreen Park” on Park Avenue.

He added that Building 50 at PSNS would be moved to the park next to the terminal to serve as a new home to the Naval Museum.

The party went down broad steps to the lower level and stopped again. Sexton pointed up at the old Enetai brick building at the corner of First and Washington, near where ferry autos exited.

Sexton and other officials said Enetai will be demolished, as well as buildings across Washington housing a small McDonald’s eatery and other retail. Many storefronts there are already empty. This is the tentative location for the combination conference center and hotel.

Until a development group is picked and final plans drawn, Sexton admitted he didn’t know exactly where the conference center/hotel would be. Tentative plans call for a multi-story structure with about 100 rooms and 15,000 square feet.

Hugo commented the Port of Bremerton is ready to expand the Bremerton Marina nearby adding 150 slips, a breakwater and the capacity for live-aboard boats up to 60 feet long. The USS Turner Joy, a floating museum and long a fixture at the north end of the Boardwalk, may have to be moved over a bit.

Officials also mentioned plans by the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority to raze many old houses along the waterfront and build 300 condos.

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