Looking through a crystal ball

Artist’s rendition of the current redevelopment projects in Bremerton’s downtown core area. - Courtesy of city of Bremerton
Artist’s rendition of the current redevelopment projects in Bremerton’s downtown core area.
— image credit: Courtesy of city of Bremerton

If Mayor Cary Bozeman gets his way, Bremerton will look so different in the next few years it may even need a new name.

But he’s already inked one out.

As mayor since 2002, his unyielding focus has been to transform the concrete-clogged, tree-sparse downtown and waterfront area into a place of vibrancy and unbeatable views.

He has now renamed that space Bremerton’s Harborside.

It’s the title stamped on all of the fliers and pamphlets handed out to developers and potential residents.

Right now, only a few people mill about in the downtown on an average Sunday, but Bozeman wants the Harborside to be electric within a few years —a central part of a 24-hour city.

In the next 24 months, numerous sidewalks will be redone, buildings will be torn down, trees will be planted and new businesses will open as part of a maritime park at the corner of Pacific Avenue and First Street.

According to Bremerton’s Director of Economic Development Gary Sexton all the streets in the downtown area will be torn up and redone within the next 24 months. The sidewalks will be widened, trees will be planted, and the street width will be reduced by 4 feet.

The project will be a partnership between the city, the Navy, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Puget Sound Energy.

A visible change, including a steady stream of pedestrians, will be visible by 2006, Sexton said.

Already, the redevelopment plans have spurned their opponents.

Some say that it will push all of the mom and pop stores out like a bulldozer.

The plans also have their supporters.

It’s a long time coming, say residents who remember Bremerton’s heyday, where a U.S. census survey counted 75,000 residents living in 1945. Bremerton’s current population hovers at a little more than 38,000.

Like all the mayors before him, Bozeman says his job is all about the people.

But even though he represents the thousands of residents in this community, he is actually aiming to get some new blood in town.

The redevelopment is founded on the construction of four major buildings, including the waterfront conference center, the government center, the condominiums and marina, but Bozeman realizes that the real goal behind each is getting more faces in town.

Naturally, people carry wallets, and the more money they spend at local businesses, the better.

He wants people living here, too. The waterfront condominiums will eventually house 200 residents right near the downtown core. The condominiums won’t be rented. They will be bought.

Interest in these condos is exceptional. On June 5, more than 100 investors packed into a small room for a demonstration from Sienna Architects, the designers of the project.

Bozeman wants many more residents to buy houses in the city as well. Currently, nearly half the residents in the city are renters, Bozeman said.

All this purchasing pours tax money into the economy. Schools can raise levies for improved services. Police and fire can purchase new equipment.

And with every major project, such as the government center on Sixth Street or the new Public Safety Building across the street, Bozeman wants to mash in more trees and shrubs. To break up the gray buildings and to offer places for people to sit on lunch breaks. And to offer places for parents to bring their children.

Bozeman, Sexton and city Planning Manager Paul Rogers are all envisioning a drastically different Bremerton within the next two decades.

Currently, administrators in the planning department have been renewing the city’s comprehensive plan, a guiding master book that the city council will eventually adopt.

It provides policy framework to A peek into what’s to come in the next 20 years in Bremerton.

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