Terraces, a tower and 'transparency'

Bainbridge’s biggest-ever residential project is taking its first steps from the architects’ drawings to reality.

Applications will be filed Monday for Harbor Square, a mixed-use development on the five-acre tract immediately across east Winslow Way from the ferry terminal.

Proponents believe they can avoid the pitfalls that have twice stopped the project – including its controversial incarnation as “The Landing” – in part because of what they learned from those failures.

“We have the advantage of being the third people to try,” said architect Sean Parker, who is designing the project with partner Bill Isley. “We had the advantage of being able to go back and see what people wanted.”

The project consists of two- and three-story buildings grouped around a central courtyard, most of which will be open to Winslow Way.

When finished, Harbor Square will consist of 180 condominium residences and some 23,000 square feet of commercial space in an as-yet undetermined mix of office and retail.

Opening the south side to Winslow Way will not only allow enough sunshine for grass to thrive – a criticism of an earlier manifestation that had buildings around the entire perimeter of the court – but will invite community use.

“The whole project is meant to be completely transparent,” Parker said. “People are encouraged to use the whole site.”

The idea, Isley said, is to create a meeting space on the east end of Winslow Way to complement Winslow Green on the west end – “to extend downtown.”

Because of the broad community support expressed at neighborhood meetings held last fall, Isley believes that permitting can take place relatively quickly, free of controversy. Ideally, work would begin this fall, he said.

The residences would vary from about 450 to 2,400 square feet, Parker said, and would be priced at roughly $250 to $300 per square foot. The commercial spaces would be relatively small – 900 to 2,800 square feet – and would aim at serving ferry commuters and the neighborhood, Isley said. The buildings will step back as they get taller, featuring many balconies.

“That makes the buildings look a lot more interesting, and allow them to take advantage of the views,” Parker said.

The project would include a total of 483 parking spaces, most in a large underground parking structure, with 148 spaces set aside for ferry users – half for “commuters,” and half for “non-commuters,” meaning spaces that would not open until as late as 9 a.m.

Parking for residents and guests would also be underground, with surface parking for retail workers and customers.

Work will proceed in phases. The first phase, closest to Ferncliff Avenue, would have 45 residences and some commercial space, Parker said.

The second stage, farther to the west, would involve the heavy-duty earth-moving required to build the underground parking garage, and also construction of the central public plaza.

The third and fourth phases would be on the western edge, and would include some of the larger residential buildings.

The current parking lot would be moved to the far west end of the terminal during construction of phases 1 and 2, Parker said, then eliminated when the underground ferry parking opens up.

The three large trees in the northeast quadrant of the property will be saved, and will provide a walkway from Ferncliff into the central plaza.

“You will be able to walk through the project to get from Winslow Way to Ferncliff,” Parker said.

The tower

One of the most visible aspects of the plan is a tower.

“The design guidelines require you to have a symbolic element,” Isley said. “We envision some kind of lighthouse, but it also looks like a Bainbridge water tower with the inward-sloping sides.”

The historic Cave house on the property will have to be moved, but arrangements are in the works that would keep the house in the neighborhood, isley said.

While the retail and commercial mix has not been established, Isley said that unlike some of the earlier configurations, the present design does not call for a restaurant or a pub.

Each phase will take close to a year to build, Parker said, and market conditions will dictate when the subsequent phases are starting.

“But I’m optimistic,” he said. “We’ve been deluged by real-estate agents saying they already have clients who are interested.”

With total construction costs estimated as high as $30 million, Harbor Square will be one of the largest single projects in island history – “on a par with the Puget Sound Environmental Learning Center,” Parker said, and far and away the largest single residential project.

Harbor Square is the third proposal for the property. In 1998, Jason Lowe of Poulsbo, then 23, proposed a plan called Winslow Landing that included a hotel and pub, together with other businesses and some 80 condominiums.

Lowe borrowed extensively, though, pledging the property as collateral. When personal and financial difficulties sunk Lowe’s efforts, he deeded the project to Gale Cool, his former manager. But Cool lost control of the property at a foreclosure sale instigated by some of Lowe’s creditors.

Owner of the project is Washington Development Company out of Missoula, Montana. It is the first northwest venture for that firm, which is named for Dennis Washington, its founder.

Parker, a Bainbridge native, praised Washington’s sensitivity to community values.

“This is such an important piece of property for the community that we’ve tried to lasso the owner to make sure he would do it right, and he has been more than willing to go along,” Parker said.

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