Flea market seeks home by the sea

To some, an empty parking garage is an empty parking garage.

For others, it’s a way to make money and bring people downtown on sleepy Sunday afternoons.

Bremerton resident Mike Momany is in the latter camp.

Momany, who coordinates Bremerton’s outdoor cinema, has plans to create a weekly flea market in the city-owned parking garage between Fourth and Fifth streets on Washington Avenue.

He will call it Flea by the Sea and was drawn to the building because of its size and incredible view.

The idea came to him a year ago, but his interest was revived a few weeks ago. He saw a TV program highlighting the success of a large flea market on a long stretch of abandoned highway in Georgia.

“I didn’t realize they were that popular,” Momany said.

He said there is a need for a covered, open-air market in the area.

Momany’s long-term plans include filling the garage with up to 300 vendors, and using the roof for a musical venue, the outdoor cinema and other entertainment in the summer.

He says he will start small, and he hopes it grows every week.

Food vendors, antique dealers, auto parts traders, garage sales, crafts, arts farmer’s markets will attract up to 5,000 customers by next summer, Momany hopes.

He aims to open the market by Oct. 6, and plans to run the market year-round.

At an informational meeting, City Council members praised the idea of the market and the opportunities to attract people to downtown.

“We need to take some risks and we need to take some chances ... It’s beneficial to the city to use a vacant building,” Councilman Mike Shepherd said.

However, the timeline may be too tight for the city. Council members raised concerns about parking and customer safety that may take time to resolve.

Downtown is relatively vacant on Sundays, aside from game days in Seattle, councilmembers noted. But parking conditions could change when construction begins on the numerous downtown revitalization projects. Momany will ask for a three-year lease on the garage to secure investors, but the Council did not want to commit long term because of parking concerns.

Inadequate lighting and unsafe exits and walking surfaces in the building, were additional concerns.

Momany said he can secure the proper insurance and accept all liability.

Shepherd said if the garage is deemed unsafe for the market’s purposes, then it is probably unsafe for its current use also. He said the city should take responsibility for bringing the parking facility up to code.

Momany wants the Council to vote on the issue so he can open his market no later than Oct. 13.

“There is nothing insurmountable at all,” Momany said.

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