An architect’s drawing of the plaza at Visconsi’s Wintergreen development. The Ohio-based development company is now planning to build two apartment buildings on the site next to High School Road and Highway 305. (Image courtesy of the city of Bainbridge Island)

An architect’s drawing of the plaza at Visconsi’s Wintergreen development. The Ohio-based development company is now planning to build two apartment buildings on the site next to High School Road and Highway 305. (Image courtesy of the city of Bainbridge Island)

Visconsi has plans for two apartment buildings at shopping center property on Bainbridge

The Ohio-based company that built the Wintergreen Shopping Center on High School Road hopes to change its development plan for the commercial complex and build two residential apartment buildings on the property.

Visconsi Companies has proposed changes to its master plan for the 8.16-acre property, located at the northeast corner of Highway 305 and High School Road.

The shopping center is anchored by a Walgreens drugstore and KeyBank branch, which both opened in November 2015. Virginia Mason opened its Bainbridge Island Medical Center on the property in May 2018.

Earlier plans had called for two additional commercial buildings on the property, and that development scheme was approved by the city in 2014 as part of the site’s master plan.

Those two parcels are still largely undeveloped, although Visconsi officials had earlier tried to coax city officials into building a new police station within the shopping center.

Last week, representatives for the development company submitted a proposed site plan for the two new apartment buildings to the city.

The two new buildings would be primarily residential, three to four floors in height, with commercial businesses or common areas on the ground floors of the apartment buildings. They would be located north and northeast of the Walgreens, and adjacent to the parking lot used by Virginia Mason.

According to a submittal to the city by Wenzlau Architects, the changes to the plan for the Wintergreen Shopping Center would create a mixed-use center by adding homes within a porject that was previously a planned commercial center.

Architect Charles Wenzlau, in a statement on the project’s intent, recalled that some had wanted the development to include a housing element when the project was first approved.

“The integration of the housing within the master plan will help address the shortage of affordable market-rate apartments on the island,” Wenzlau said in the statement.

He noted that the parcels where the apartment buildings would be constructed “have sat vacant due to the lack of demand for commercial space,” and added that the site lacks visibility from High School Road and Highway 305.

The developers plan to have a mix of one-bedroom and studio apartments in the two apartment buildings — between 95 and 120 units in all — and Wenzlau said the exterior design of the buildings will be compatible with the commercial buildings that have been raised on the property, as well as the city’s new design guidelines.

Construction is proposed for 2.94 acres of the site.

Actual design of the buildings will begin once the site concept and program are finalized, Wenzlau noted.

The multi-family housing buildings will share the name of the shopping center; Wintergreen Apartments.

Visconsi did not immediately respond to a request for comment earlier this week.

A meeting on the conceptual plans for the development has been set for Monday, Sept. 16 before the city’s Design Review Board at Bainbridge Island City Hall.

The Visconsi shopping center was highly controversial when it was proposed in 2013. The plan included a 61,890-square-foot development with retail shops including a drug store, restaurants, professional services and health care facilities, but many residents were opposed since it would mean the clear-cutting of the property and the loss of a large forest along Highway 305.

Numerous demonstrations were held at the site and next to the highway, which peaked with a tree-sit protest that drew media attention from Bainbridge and beyond.

Though city planning staff had earlier recommended approval of the project, noting that the development proposal fit with Bainbridge’s zoning and development regulations, the city’s planning commission unanimously rejected the site plan and conditional use permit for the project in 2013.

The following year, however, the plan for the shopping center was approved by the city’s hearing examiner, and logging began in August 2014.

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