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Brian Miller
Real Estate Editor

August 2, 2018

On the Block: Sound West buys two acres in Bremerton for Marina Square: ‘We need more housing here'

Sound West Group has acquired a two-acre parking lot from the Port of Bremerton for $4.5 million, concluding a deal announced late last year for its mixed-use Marina Square development.

The port approved the sale in May, and it closed on June 1.

Juniper Capital announced that it provided $1.75 million in short-term financing to Sound West for the acquisition.

Sound West's Wes Larson confirmed the sale, and says, “We're 100 percent done with design development. We're 60 to 90 days away from pulling a permit. We'll start in the spring.”

One reason for the delay, apart from having other projects underway, is that he doesn't want to start digging the foundation during the winter rainy season.

Marina Square will have two six-story buildings over a garage and podium. The site at 280 Washington Ave. faces Sinclair Inlet, overlooks Bremerton Marina and is a five-minute walk to the ferry terminal. Kitsap County reintroduced fast-ferry service there last summer with a single boat, which has since experienced intermittent breakdowns and outages.

Renderings by Encore Architects [enlarge]
Marina Square breaks ground next spring, with a 120-room Cambria hotel and 134 apartments in two buildings over a garage and podium. The site is a five-minute walk to the ferry terminal.

The south building at Marina Square will have a 120-room Cambria hotel, managed by Columbia Hospitality. The hotel will have a restaurant that will be open to the public, and the podium will have commercial space — which doesn't need to be another restaurant, says Larson. There's already an Anthony's restaurant at the ferry terminal.

The north building will have 134 apartments. Three levels of parking for about 350 vehicles will be in the podium. Roof decks will have commanding views.

“It's a big project. This is a project we intend to build and own,” says Larson. Commercial leasing won't likely begin until next year. “We've talked to a number of parties.”

Construction should take about 18 to 24 months. Crucially for commuters, says Larson, Bremerton will have two more fast ferries well before Marina Square is completed, which should help attract renters who work on both sides of Puget Sound.

In February, Kitsap Transit authorized $15 million for a pair of new boats, each with 118 seats, which are expected to be delivered in 2019.

Even if commuters take the slow ferry, because the fast ferries are booked, says Larson, simply having more boats on the schedule will give people greater flexibility and confidence. “You're going to get frequency of service; frequency and reliability.”

The port originally acquired the site in 2009 for $3.5 million to use as marina parking. Under the terms of its deal with Sound West Group, it will later buy back an easement for $2 million, gaining the right to use 75 spaces in the garage for marina users and visitors.

The Marina Square team includes Encore Architects; Compass Construction, general contractor; Exeltech Consulting of Lacey, structural engineer; Abossein Engineering of Redmond, MEP engineer; Fischer Bouma Partnership of Bainbridge Island, landscape architect; Vida Design of Portland, interiors; and MAP Ltd. of Silverdale, civil engineer.

A little north of Marina Square, Sound West's Spyglass Hill opened last summer at 646 Highland Ave., which is about a 15-minute walk to the ferry terminal. All 83 units leased in 87 days, says Larson.

“We knew there would be demand; 98 percent of our residents came from Kitsap. There's been this pent-up demand for the higher end.” Most of Kitsap's multifamily units date from the 1980s and 1990s, he adds.

At the same time, “We're getting more inquiries for Spyglass on the Seattle side.”

A second phase is being planned, tentatively called Spyglass North. It will have 30 to 50 units, many with “premium views.”

In downtown Bremerton, Sound West just finished construction on Quincy Square, which has 27 residential units, a self-storage facility, 3,000 square feet of retail and 53 parking stalls. That project also included renovating the historic Roxy Theater (which reopened in February), and encompasses the former Ford dealership and Sears building on Fourth Street.

The 27 housing units are called B Flats — the name is a nod to former Bremerton resident Quincy Jones, the namesake for Quincy Square. Larson just got a temporary certificate of occupancy for B Flats.

“In less than a month, we've leased 21 of 27 apartments. We're off the hook. We just can't build and lease apartments quickly enough. We need more housing here.”

Bainbridge Landing is underway on Bainbridge, in a venture with Olympic Property Group. It has 114 rental units and 18 for-sale townhouses. Completion is expected in about six months.

Over in Poulsbo, Sound West has acquired 11 properties on the historic downtown strip.

“We're not going to be knocking anything down,” says Larson. The plan is to refresh the retail, then later add retail above or behind those properties. “It's kind of a Post Alley concept,” he says.

All told, “We've got more than 500 units” in varying stages of development in Bremerton, Bainbridge, Poulsbo and Silverdale. Sound West also works on the east side of Puget Sound, with past projects in Queen Anne and Eastlake.

Back in downtown Bremerton, Larson plans another 50 to 60 units on a site Sound West has under contract. As a result of zoning changes five years ago, “The city is allowing developers to build pretty much what the market demands. That opens up the horizons of what is possible. We're buying everything we can. We are interested in expanding our footprint.”

The main problem, when it comes to the local owners of vacant old retail properties and parking lots in downtown Bremerton is, “Will they ever sell?”

Got a tip? Contact DJC real estate editor Brian Miller at brian.miller@djc.com or call him at (206) 219-6517.

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