Sound West Group’s Mike Brown talks about the construction of the Marina Square site in downtown Bremerton on Friday. (Photo: Meegan M. Reid / Kitsap Sun)
BREMERTON — Since breaking ground in April, contractors for Bremerton developer Sound West Group have been progressing steadily, if not quietly, on one of the largest developments ever constructed in the city.
You’ve seen it by now: the towering crane and block-long construction site set against the backdrop of Bremerton’s waterfront on Washington Avenue at Second Street. Nearly eight months in, the project’s three-story parking garage is beginning to take shape.
Marina Square — as it is being called for now — will have a total price tag of over $120 million. So far, everything seems to be on schedule; its developer expects completion in mid-2021.
“We’re putting the foundation in, in broad terms,” said Sound West Group principal Mike Brown.
Marina Square will include a 125-room hotel, 143-unit apartment building and public plaza built on top of the three-level, 380-stall parking garage. The two-tower project aims to reshape both downtown Bremerton and the wider region, developers say, and the total price tag for the project puts it in the conversation for the largest developments ever seen in Bremerton.
“We’re looking at it really as a legacy project and the biggest project we’ve been involved with and we couldn’t be more excited about it,” said Wes Larson, with Sound West Group.
City records for developments are based on the valuation of permits filed with the department of community development, which don’t include costs for things like furniture, fixtures or kitchen equipment, which don’t require a permit.
Among the most expensive projects since the early 2000s (based on city permit records) are Olympic College’s instruction center, at $36.3 million; the Harborside Condominiums at $17.7 million; OC’s science and technology building at $14.5 million; and the 400 Condos at $13 million. Marina Square’s parking garage alone stands at $34.16 million, a number which will only grow as construction progresses.
Sound West purchased the land for the project from the Port of Bremerton, which had been using it as a parking lot. The port had wanted to do something with the parking lot for a long time, and found an ideal partner in Sound West Group, Port Commissioner Cary Bozeman said. The port lost 75 parking spots in the sale, which it will buy back from the developers once the project is complete.
Bremerton is no longer a retail center, but an “urban neighborhood” focused on residential units, small businesses and office space, Bozeman said. Marina Square will contribute to that identity, adding parking and housing while contributing revenue to the city through lodging taxes from the hotel.
“This is going to continue to support that revitalization of downtown,” Bozeman said.
The project has hit most of its construction timelines so far, with only a slight delay caused early-on by the discovery of an old privy as contractors were beginning to excavate the site. A few of those artifacts could be destined for the Burke Museum at the University of Washington.
Objects found include glass bottles, ceramic pipe fragments, leather fragments, nail fragments and bones from food, according to Jeremy Stitt with Sound West Group. The case is still being reviewed by an archaeologist.
Laura Phillips, the archaeology collections manager at the Burke Museum, said that she has received records for the find but has not yet received any artifacts.
The museum curates collections from all over the Pacific Northwest, many of which are unearthed during construction projects. After discovering something that may be historically significant, archaeologists hired by the developer extract and analyze anything of interest. In particular, the contents of privies can provide details about the time period and region in which they’re found.
“We’re looking at what people leave behind, information from an outhouse can be quite valuable because it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t get written about,” Phillips said.
Put another way: “People throw interesting things into outhouses,” Larson said.
The biggest challenge with construction so far has simply been getting into the ground. Excavation comes with a number of “unknown conditions,” like the outhouse, that can slow or delay construction. So far, general contractor Compass Construction has made good progress.
“We’re where we hope to be, so that’s a good thing,” Brown said.
Developers estimate the project is 20% complete. The goal is to have the parking garage completed by late January or early February, when work on the wood-frame towers would begin. Total completion is expected in about 20 months, Larson said.
Drivers and cyclists leaving the ferry will have to contend with a narrower Washington Avenue for the foreseeable future. The road has been reduced to one lane so cement trucks and construction crews can use the area for staging.
Once complete, Marina Square will feature a public restaurant and market on the hotel side and a public square for events between the two towers. Cambria, the hotelier, was picked in part because it is flexible when it comes to design. The hotel will have a flavor that is distinctly Bremerton, Larson said.
“It’s just very compelling for a lot of reasons, and a big part of this project, too, is the partnership with the public, we are providing access to the waterfront, we’ll be redeveloping the shoreline, they’ll be a public square component to the project,” Larson said.
Sound West’s hope is that ultimately Marina Square will act as a catalyst for redevelopment in downtown Bremerton and increase the city’s connection to Seattle, thanks to the project’s proximity to the ferry terminal and the Kitsap Transit fast ferry.
“We’re a local developer, we’re undertaking a project with a great deal of positivity and I think other developers from outside the area may not have had the same optimism that we have for downtown Bremerton and the future, so for us, it was just a natural fit,” Larson said.