Island Gateway approved by city

The Island Gateway would be a mixed-use development, featuring museums, retail, restaurants and office space. - Graphic courtesy of Coates Design Architects
The Island Gateway would be a mixed-use development, featuring museums, retail, restaurants and office space.
— image credit: Graphic courtesy of Coates Design Architects

Following city Planning Director Kathy Cook's approval of the Island Gateway project, businesses occupying the 5.28-acre plot on the northwest corner of Winslow Way and State Route-305 have until the end of August to relocate.

Most of the residents on the property knew of the project's status and consequences, but a few were caught off guard when notified their leases would run out at the end of next month.

Francisco Fuentez Jr. of Rosie's Detail Shop said he was approached in January and told that the property had been purchased, but he still had a year before he would have to find a new space.

"All of the sudden I started seeing these proposal papers on the property in June," he said.

Then after Cook approved the application last Friday, Fuentez said he received a notice to vacate the property by Aug. 31. An island resident since 1993, Fuentez doesn't know how he'll make up for the loss of his space.

"This is my income," he said. "This is my living."

Fuentez is now mulling a career change. He said he will attempt to work on the Washington State Ferry system.

The Chamber of Commerce represents one of the pillars of the current establishment on the acreage. Kevin Dwyer, executive director of the chamber, said he is excited about the new development on the corner. The chamber's lease also ends on Aug. 31, and Dwyer said it's possible that the chamber would relocate to an office space in the new development near the ferry terminal.

"This is a pretty good place for us to be because a lot of what we do relates to tourism," he said.

Next door to the chamber, the Seattle Children's Hospital Bargain Boutique is busy looking for a new location. The store has been on the island for more than 40 years, nearly 30 of which were spent at the current location, 572 Winslow Way. Store manager Cynthia VanBuskirk said the development will be great for the island. She added that the business will remain on the island.

During the planning process, the developers of Island Gateway said they would try to help displaced businesses.

Larry Skinner, sales manager for Island Gateway, has helped the businesses search for a new location. He has also assisted in negotiating leases.

The wheels started spinning for the implementation of the project when the Planning Commission unanimously approved the application less than two weeks ago. The application then went to Cook for further consideration.

"The Planning Commission added no additional conditions," Cook said. "I took that recommendation to heart and issued the approval."

Bill Carruthers, who worked on the development of the project, said site work should begin in mid to late August.

Carruthers feels a new sense of enthusiasm after seeing how quickly his project made it through the deliberation of the Planning Commission and the planning director.

"We are very pleased that we had unanimous approvals all the way, that the director signed the entitlement, and we're really impressed by the efficiency of the city planning and building department," he said.

Skinner said the portion of land north of the Bargain Boutique has been purchased, and the deal for the southern half, which features the chamber and Bank of America will be closed at the end of August.

The development would create a new space for the Kids Discovery Museum (KiDiMu) retail and restaurant space, an art museum and office space with underground parking.

The property features some environmentally sensitive areas, including wetlands and buffer zones along the ravine that flows through the parcel.

Speaking to the Planning Commission earlier in the month, Matthew Coates, an architect with the firm designing the project, Coates Design Architect, said all the buffer zones and vegetation will be unharmed by the project.

The project hit its primary hang up during the pre-application phase when initial sketches were criticized by the city's Design Review Board in April.

Though when it came time for the designs to be presented to the commission those issues had been smoothed out.

Throughout the process community members voiced concerns over the modern nature of the design, but at the commission meeting's public comment, no one spoke out against the design.

Supporters of the development have promoted the art museum as a place for Bainbridge artists to be immortalized.

John Baker, speaking on behalf of the proposed art museum at the Planning Commission meeting, said the project will begin a new era for island culture.

"This development is destined to become an island land mark and a great first impression for visitors," he said.

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