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Does museum deal trump parking?

"Downtown Winslow merchants and the island's Chamber of Commerce continue to push the Town Square, an ambitious plan that could provide both parking for shoppers and affordable housing.But they fear the city may have have sacrificed the future to preserve the past, by offering a deal to let the Bainbridge Island Historical Society move to the vacant pet store property on Ericksen Avenue. And that, some say, puts the museum and the new parking facility in conflict.What bothers me is that the (city) council is taking actions that might rule out the (Town Square) project without ever considering it, Chamber President Jack MacArthur said this week. They want to look at Town Square and the pet store property issue separately, and they are absolutely not separate.' The proposal, dubbed the Winslow Town Square, would include up to three floors of underground parking, topped by a mixed-use development of retail and housing units. It would be located south of the new farmers' market plaza, between city hall and the back of the existing businesses on Winslow Way.The city owns the western two-thirds of the land at issue, now used for parking with paved and gravel lots. But it is the eastern tract - the gravelled parking lot behind the Isla Bonita restaurant - that sits at the crux of the dispute.That lot is owned by Dr. Thomas Hagger, who uses it for employee parking at the Virginia Mason clinic, which he also owns. Both Chamber of Commerce and city officials say Hagger has offered to trade that land for a third parcel, a city-owned tract between the Bainbridge Performing Arts playhouse and Ericksen Avenue, former site of a pet store.But the pet store property has also been seen as a future home for the Bainbridge Historical Museum, which board members hope to move from its present out-of-the-way location in Strawberry Hill Park to a downtown site accessible to walk-off ferry visitors. If the historical society were to locate on the pet store property, there wouldn't be any land to trade to Hagger.But despite pleas from MacArthur and the Chamber board to consider Winslow Town Square on its merits before making any decisions, the city council has given the historical society first dibs on the pet store property. On May 24, the council passed a resolution giving the historical society six months to study the feasibility of locating on the pet store property.If the society determines that the location is feasible, the resolution commits the city to negotiating a long-term lease of the land.To Winslow Hardware and Mercantile owner Ken Schuricht, what is at stake is nothing less than the character of downtown Winslow.Without adequate parking, we can't serve island residents, Schuricht said. Most of them live too far away to walk downtown. Or they're in a hurry. And people can't take a lawn mower home on a bike.If we can't serve our local population, Winslow Way is destined to be a tourist trap with T-shirt shops, souvenir stores, and stuff like that. The community won't keep shopping here."

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