Everything Bremerton: Downtown revitalization takes time and attention for the long haul

Bringing a downtown core back from the brink of decay, abandonment and disinterest is a long-term, risk-taking struggle of a balancing act.

From 1995 to 1998, I worked in downtown Tacoma for an attorney on the 14th floor of the Wells Fargo Bank Building. The Pacific Avenue area of Tacoma that you see today does not remotely resemble the Pacific Avenue area of a decade ago, when, behind the scenes, city officials, business owners and developers had already established a plan for improvements and were just beginning to implement them.

Of course much of the city population said it couldn’t be done – that downtown Tacoma was beyond saving, reforming or revitalizing. Based on my own experiences for those three years of having to commute for several hours a week for a handful of miles each way from Gig Harbor, find and pay for affordable parking as close to my building as possible and then navigate through areas of loitering individuals with questionable intent just to get to and from work had me agreeing with the naysayers at first.

Then, slowly, things started to change. Old condemned or abandoned buildings were torn down or refurbished. The midweek farmers market came into the downtown area where office workers flocked for yummy lunch selections to be eaten during open air concerts held in the fountain courtyards of the existing high rise buildings. Union Station was cleaned up, rehabbed and turned into a museum. Stores, restaurants and even a college campus took up residence along what had once been one of the meanest most degenerate streets in the city.

A complete turnaround did not happen overnight and it was not without conflict or challenge. What is important that the turnaround happened at all.

This past Friday, Jason and I dropped the top on the car and took a drive over to Tacoma for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, home to the most spectacular hill-side view of the city.

After dinner we cruised down Pacific Avenue marveling at what that city has accomplished in just a little over a decade; how with the right balance of investment, management, support and decision making that Bremerton could very well be revitalized in much the same way over a similar period of time.

Right now there are issues on the table here in Bremerton and the city needs to find the right kind of balance with decisions that could very well impact our ability to revitalize and the timely manner. The proposed condo development around Evergreen Park is one of those issues that need the right kind of balance to be supported and to succeed. Placement of the methadone clinic is another.

Also looking for balance is the issue of too much past focus on downtown and next to nothing on the rest of Bremerton.

Who we elect to local positions and how much we individually or collectively participate as public voices will balance, sway and decide many of the critical issues Bremerton will face.

Educate yourself on the issues and your elected representation. The revitalization of the entire city of Bremerton can be done and we are just the ones to do it.


Colleen Smidt writes about everything Bremerton.

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