Harbor Square project rolls around again

The largest mixed-use developmment in Bainbridge history may finally break ground.

Harbor Square, the most recent incarnation of a long-delayed housing and retail project on 4.3 acres north of the Winslow ferry terminal, is being resuscitated by Opus Northwest LLC of Bellevue.

The firm is close to buying the project from the Montana-based Washington Development, which nursed it through the permitting process several years ago but then never turned a spade.

Opus’ interest in the project surfaced this week, when company representatives met with a group of neighbors and city officials.

“We have a purchase agreement, which gives us time to study it,” said Andy Taber, senior real estate manager for Opus Northwest.

As previously approved, the project would include some 180 residential units and over 22,000 square feet of retail and office space in three- and four-story buildings, clustered around a central courtyard. Most of the 475 parking stalls would be in an underground garage; several surface parking lots would serve the retail and office tenants.

The plans are being reworked somewhat from the approved site plan, with public open space likely to be consolidated in a corridor running diagonally through the project.

Plans for a 55-foot-high ornamental tower, which drew criticism from neighbors during permitting, have been dropped.

Other than that, the project should be similar in shape and scale to what’s already been approved.

“We’re not going to exceed any of those numbers, let’s put it that way,” Taber said.

The revised plans must be reviewed by the city planning department; if they do not differ significantly from the already approved site plan, Opus would be free to apply for building permits and get under way, planning officials said.

Opus Northwest is the regional office of the Opus Group, a Minnesota-based development, architecture, engineering and property management concern with 27 offices around the country. While the 50-year-old outfit has generally done industrial and commercial projects, it has ventured into the residential market in the past few years.

The project was proposed about seven years ago by a young Poulsbo developer, who was then waylaid by legal and financial problems. It has passed through several ownerships since then, most recently the Washington Development.

As Opus representatives discussed the project with neighbors, several residents continued to raise concerns over the scale of the buildings, traffic impacts and the loss of commuter parking when a commercial lot now on the site is eliminated.

Ferncliff Avenue resident Lois Andrus said she is concerned for the integrity of the open space in the project’s core. She cited a condominium project near the Harbour Public House, which boasts an expansive garden courtyard that’s off-limits to the public.

“I don’t want to see the same thing happen there,” Andrus said. “That’s my greatest concern.”

No other public meetings on the project have been announced, and planning officials are awaiting more documents from Opus.

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