Business

McKenzie finds Winslow niche

"When developer Rod McKenzie first saw Bainbridge Island, he didn't see new subdivisions in the woods, or starter castles on large lots. He saw what he calls urban living at its finest.We liked the village atmosphere of Winslow, McKenzie said. We chose to live here so we could walk instead of driving.And he has prospered on Bainbridge by making that option available to others. His Winslow Mews condominium complex on Wyatt Way between Madison and Ericksen avenues was a critical and commercial smash hit. And he hopes to repeat that success with his new Courtyards on Madison development.The Courtyards project, designed by Bainbridge architect Charles Wenzlau, consists of 30 two-bedroom units on the west side of Madison across from Knechtel Way. Ten of the units will front on Madison, flanking the driveway. The interior of the project will be a courtyard, with buildings on the perimeter.Fairbank Construction of Bainbridge Island will be the builder.Most of the units will have roughly 1,600 square feet, and will sell for around $280,000. The four affordable units will have about 860 square feet, and will sell in the $160,000 range. Twelve of the units will have space for an optional elevator.Most units will have two-car garages, and all will have space for two cars to park. But if McKenzie's experience at the Mews is any indication, not all of the parking will be necessary.The majority of people who bought in the Mews work on the island, he said. They like being able to walk to everything. They are not bringing a lot of vehicles.That vision of pedestrian-oriented village life is reflected in the Winslow Master Plan, McKenzie said.The plan was developed to accommodate pedestrians, he said. People moving into an urban area don't expect to be driving.McKenzie, a successful Eastside developer, moved to the island from Kirkland, with wife Barb and daughters, in 1996. Because the move was more about lifestyle than business opportunities, he didn't know what, if anything, he would do on Bainbridge.But when McKenzie read the Winslow Master Plan, he knew the fit would be good.The Winslow Master Plan and the comprehensive plan provide opportunities to do niche development in Winslow, he said. That's exciting, because it's what I like to do - small developments with a lot of character.McKenzie would welcome the chance to do more projects in Winslow, but he said close-in land is hard to find.I'd love to do cottages, he said. Eight to 10 on an acre with very little parking. But that would have to be in downtown Winslow.McKenzie's optimism about Bainbridge is tempered only by the specter of elitism, which he thinks could be the unintended consequence of efforts to restrict growth.The Winslow Master Plan tried to create a place for everyone to live and work, he said. But the more you restrict development, the higher the land values become, which makes this a more exclusive place to live. And it then becomes unattractive to businesses, because their employees won't be able to afford to live here."

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