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Garage plan comes back from grave

"Just when we were ready to consign it to the dank and musty earth, laid by the heels with other great ideas gone lifeless, the Winslow parking garage plan has skipped back from the edge of the grave. Must be Halloween.Not to imply that the garage idea has any ghoulish qualities about it - not yet - but in the latest Town Square proposal, it's seen a resuscitation worthy of a certain Transylvanian count.As now envisioned, the project would include four levels of underground parking, a two story cultural component that may or may not be a convention hall, and two stories of rental housing, half of it subsidized. Total cost for the project is projected to be $15 million.We were impressed by Monday's presentation by architect Bill Isley and representatives of the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority. The show of support from downtown merchants also suggested that there is still interest in the idea, which has languished for more than a year.The apartments certainly would fulfill a need. And we particularly like the fact that the housing authority could use its own bonding capacity to pay for the project construction up front. That would leave the city unencumbered as it meets other big-ticket capital needs around the island.We are, though, concerned about the nebulous cultural component. As part of the housing authority's ongoing study, we'd like to see a formal inventory of Bainbridge meeting halls and kitchens. Notwithstanding anecdotal accounts this week of poor facilities, what's out there? We're still not convinced that the Bainbridge Commons - for which the city coughed up a few hundred thousand dollars just seven years ago - is being used to its full potential.And whatever happened to sharing facilities? We've attended some fine functions held in local schools. Some of them even included food. We're not convinced that a new banquet hall with a seating capacity of 300-500 guests would be filling any demonstrable need.More problematic, we're told that the city could be asked to guarantee the viability of the cultural center in its early years. Translation: If the conference hall - or convention hall, or whatever it is - fails to make money from the outset, it would need support from the city's general fund. That's starting to sound more vampiric by the minute.The downtown parking garage has been a project in search of a constituency since Day One. In the Town Square proposal, it may have found one.Wednesday, the city council pledged to kick in up to $50,000 toward a feasibility study that will examine environmental, traffic and cost issues. We can't wait to see some hard numbers when they come back next year, including revenue sources to pay back the bonds, and how many downtown property owners are really committed to buying in for parking.If it doesn't add up, back to the grave with it. "

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