It certainly pays to own property, especially on Bainbridge Island. Just ask Larry Nakata.
Nakata owns two very important pieces of land in the Winslow core area: a downtown tract of concrete under Town & Country Market and the U.S. Post Office downtown; and five acres off High School Road, where Ace Hardware, McDonald’s and Key Bank are located.
It’s all very convenient for Nakata because he wants to expand his store and add parking spaces, which is exactly what the Post Office would like to do. Expansion is the first consideration by USPS, but that is not feasible because its landlord isn’t interested in giving up additional land. In fact, T&C needs more land, or, at least, to expand on its existing property. The landowner, coincidentally, has an empty couple of acres elsewhere that is vacant at this time.
The Post Office says it needs about 75,000 square feet (8,000 inside), which just happens to be available between Ace and McDonald’s, including a large parking lot located in front of the hardware store. Perfect. T&C builds the Post Office a new home off High School Road and then tears down the existing building, giving it enough land to enlarge its own building and/or add some much-needed parking spaces.
The details haven’t been announced yet since there’s this little matter of a public meeting scheduled Tuesday at The Commons, where the future of the Post Office will be “discussed.” Actually, plans that already have been dissected will be made public and questions will be allowed. No decisions will be made at the meeting, according to a USPS statement.
Really? This paper-thin veil offered in the name of democracy is always intriguing since everyone knows what’s going to happen but we go through the motions as if no deal has been made. Nothing official, at least, though something unofficial certainly has been decided… and behind the dreaded “closed doors,” including one that has Mayor Darlene Kordonowy’s name on it.
Anyway, the public should take advantage of the opportunity by asking some hard, specific questions, including: Since a public institution is involved, what’s the cost and who’s paying for it? Who decided the Post Office needed more space? Was there a study? How long have conversations been occurring? Was the deal instigated by the city decision to drop its parking garage proposal? Exactly what are T&C’s expansion plans? Do they include a private parking garage, with rental spaces? Or will a private garage be built elsewhere, perhaps behind the Winslow Clinic? What’s the city’s involvement? Is a new version of Winslow Tomorrow being discussed as part of the deal? Will this affect the Winslow Way project in any way?
What T&C does on its own property is its business, as long as it adheres to city code. Involvement by the Post Office, however, means there has to be a public process before the deal goes down. There’s no doubt people will complain about the Post Office moving out of downtown, especially seniors who find the current location convenient. (Some presence, probably in the form of a Contract Postal Unit, will remain). Assuming that eventually one of the two probably will have to leave the area, wouldn’t it be better for downtown if the grocery store is the one that stays?
The store has been selling groceries at the same location for more than 50 years and has a history of being a remarkably responsible and public-spirited member of the community. If the Post Office has to go, so be it.
But let’s make sure the deal is transparent and no strings are attached.