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South end sewer district looks to save historical building

Island youth Aila Ikuse offers input on what the sewer and parks districts should consider going into the renovation proposal. For instance, Ikuse said, while residents are supportive of the project now, they should be aware that it would mean construction noise and crews in the area until the building’s completion.  - Cecilia Garza | Bainbridge Island Review
Island youth Aila Ikuse offers input on what the sewer and parks districts should consider going into the renovation proposal. For instance, Ikuse said, while residents are supportive of the project now, they should be aware that it would mean construction noise and crews in the area until the building’s completion.
— image credit: Cecilia Garza | Bainbridge Island Review

For the last 20 years, Kitsap County Sewer District 7 has met in the dining room of Commissioner Sarah Lee’s Fort Ward home.

With a little elbow grease and support from the island community, however, the group hopes to change that.

“We really need a place to put all those files and for the community to meet during the winter,” Lee said during a community meeting last week.

The district has partnered up with the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District to transform a World War I artifact into a combination community center and sewer district office.

Located on Evergreen Avenue is the old Fort Ward bakery, a 1,800-square-foot, red brick building where in the early 1900s it produced loaves of bread for the troops and functioned as a center to the military community.

During World War II, it held generators for a top secret radio listening post that intercepted Japanese naval communications.

The building, commissioners said, is the perfect space to help connect the Fort Ward neighborhood to its history and community.

“People seem to be very excited about everything from yoga classes to kids camps and potlucks,” Lee said. “I hope it really does become an adjunct to the parade ground.”

By creating a community center in conjunction with a district office, Lee explained it would bring an added feature of the Fort Ward community that often goes unnoticed in the shadow of more active areas of the island like Lynwood Center and Downtown Winslow.

The space, commissioners said, would be a relatively small scale version of other community centers on Bainbridge. It would hold a maximum capacity of 50 people. By comparison, Island Center’s maximum capacity is 100 and Seabold’s, 80.

“On a summer day all you have to do is come out there with a stick and a ball and the kids grow out of the ground, I kid you not,” Lee said of Fort Ward.

“You have that sense of community that not a lot of people have. In the winter, this would do that for us.”

The district purchased the Fort Ward bakery in 2007. In the same year, it enlisted a volunteer architect to draw up plans for what the shared space could look like and its potential costs. Over this past year, the parks district reviewed the plans and inspected the building.

In 2007, the architect estimated about $300,000 in renovations.

The biggest challenge, Lee said, will be funding to meet that bill.

With help from the parks district and excitement exemplified by the Fort Ward neighborhood, however, the district is prepared to take on the task.

“One of the real assets we have, is the parks district is excited about it, but they’re very realistic,” Lee explained.

“We’re going to have to figure out what’s realistic and shoot for that.”

The group plans to look into public grants, city allocated grants, donations from private organizations and individual donations from generous citizens.

“Any time things get daunting, I want to say that last night made me feel pretty good,” Lee said of the group’s first public meeting.

“You look to your neighbors and you think, ‘Hey, we can do this.’”

The history that’s laced throughout the neighborhood is a key facet of the community. Like many buildings in Fort Ward, Lee’s home also has a rich past.

By creating a community space that carries the same weight, residents of all ages will have a chance to continue honoring that history, Lee said. Instead of allowing the Fort Ward bakery to continue into decay, it could be an asset.

“How many sewer districts are doing it? Probably none,” Lee said. “As sewer commissioners you can sit back and see that the community is losing certain resources … and you can say this is all we will do or you can look at the broader issues and say this is what we could do.”

 

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