Empty Bainbridge bank building may become coffee café

A longtime Bainbridge Island coffee shop is hoping to add a second location on the island.

Commuter Comforts, which has operated a coffee stand at the Bainbridge ferry terminal for 25 years, wants to transform the empty KeyBank building behind the McDonald’s on High School Road into a café/drive-thru espresso stand.

The proposal is in the early stages. Proponents of the project submitted initial plans to the city on Aug. 30, and city staff have been reviewing the site plan, landscaping plan and conceptual designs for the café in recent weeks.

Officials involved with the new café will meet next Monday with the city’s Design Review Board to go over the details of the project in a pre-application meeting.

Commuter Comforts is looking to remodel the existing modular commercial structure that once was home to a KeyBank branch at 617 High School Road.

The building has largely sat empty since that KeyBank branch moved across High School Road into a new building as part of the Wintergreen Walk development that is anchored by a Walgreens drug store.

The remodel of the empty bank building will be modest, according to project plans, which call for the structure and covered porch to be “minimally modified by adding bi-fold entry doors, a corrugated metal band with signage just under the existing roof line, and outdoor seating and stand-up counters.”

According to documents submitted to the city, the business will be a “walk-in neighborhood café” that seeks to serve islanders as well as folks passing by on Highway 305. The menu would include specialty coffee drinks, sandwiches and other fare.

“The new Commuter Comforts Café & Drive Thru will provide a unique opportunity for us to serve the Bainbridge community in multiple ways,” Commuter Comforts says in its vision statement for the new location.

“Our Café will be a welcome place for individuals, families and community groups to gather. The drive through will serve the daily commuter driving through to grab their morning coffee, the parent with young children who needs their coffee and a treat for the kids but doesn’t want to get out of the car, the high schooler who swings through after class to get a blended drink and a sandwich, and tourists driving by as they exit the ferry. With this new location we will further add to the heart and character of the Bainbridge community.”

According to the company’s plans, the 8-foot-by-40-foot covered porch on the building will be used for a stand-up bar and outdoor seating.

Additional seating is also envisioned in the grassy area next to the building on the north side of the old bank, and project officials said it will be visible to people using the new biking/walking path along the highway, “with the goal of encouraging pedestrians and cyclists to see us as a destination point.”

Commuter Comforts also noted that it would expand the company’s new sustainability program at the High School Road location, and added that the program that started a year ago has resulted in 98 percent of the café’s cups and packaging being compostable.

Although drive-thru commercial businesses are highly regulated on Bainbridge Island, drive-thru stores are allowed in a limited area on High School Road east of Highway 305, an area that includes the former KeyBank branch location.

The existing building was constructed in 2004. It is 1,344 square feet in size and sits on a 1.36-acre parcel.

The property is owned by High School Road LLC, a limited liability corporation based in Milton, Washington.

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