Hotel among top ideas for former city hall property

The Port of Poulsbo is considering a purchase of the old city hall building in downtown.  - Richard D. Oxley / North Kitsap Herald
The Port of Poulsbo is considering a purchase of the old city hall building in downtown.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / North Kitsap Herald

POULSBO — The Port of Poulsbo is wasting no time gathering ideas for the city's former city hall property.

The city is currently giving the port the first option to purchase the $1.25 million property, but that consideration will only last until March 31. In the meantime, the port is exploring projects for the site such as a hotel, retail space, parking and more.

If the port ultimately does decide to take on the property, how it moves forward will have a considerable impact on downtown Poulsbo.

"You can do a two-level parking structure, with retail on the periphery, a hotel occupying the middle portion maybe," Port Commissioner Jim Rutledge said.

The sentiment was among a handful of ideas discussed between port commissioners and staff at a Jan. 7 meeting.

"The apartment thing is interesting, with living above and commercial down below," Commissioner Stephen Swann said. "That's gonna bring business and money into town.”

After an hour of tossing around ideas, the notion of a hotel dominated the brainstorming session.

"We can do a hotel, because we know the city is interested in that," Rutledge said.

Rutledge said the port should pursue a hotel project with optimization of parking and traffic as a main objective.

The size of the theoretical hotel was unclear, but commissioners envisioned a lodging operation with retail space at the ground level, as well as additional parking for the downtown area.

Port Manager Brad Miller liked that idea.

"What I see up there is a hotel with retail frontage that is horseshoe-shaped with some parking included," Miller said.

The notion of a hotel in downtown Poulsbo is not new. Over the past couple of years, placing a hotel on the old city hall property was explored by developer Lorig Associates. But the exploration did not yield favorable results. It was abandoned due to doubts that the hotel could maintain enough occupancy to turn a profit, according to Mayor Becky Erickson.

"That project was looked at from the angle of the developer," Rutledge said. “We would like to have somebody look at it from the angle of the port."

Also considered at the port meeting were ideas for additional downtown parking, retail space with apartments above, and a Grange-style facility.

What the port will ultimately do with the property, should it purchase the land, may depend on a variety of factors on the horizon. One factor could be if the city is willing to partner with the port on developing the property, particularly on a hotel project.

The port's attempts toward annexation is also a factor. The port will ask voters to expand its borders, and its tax-base, in February to include much of the surrounding Liberty Bay communities.

"If annexation doesn't happen, it won't stop the purchase, but it will look different," Rutledge said.

The brainstorming session wasn't an aimless pursuit. Commissioners want a range of ideas in order to provide direction to a planning consultant. Commissioners hope to hire Jim Darling of the consulting firm Maul Foster & Alongi. If hired, Darling will explore various avenues the port can take after purchasing the property. Darling would also consider various grants that could fund property projects.

"We are obtaining estimates for feasibility studies," Rutledge said of hiring Darling. "And for current worth and development opportunities, jointly with the city or private developers."

The city is accepting bids to demolish the old city hall structure and prepare the property for sale.


City also discusses plans for former city hall

While the Port of Poulsbo considers its options should it purchase the former city hall property, the city is also fielding ideas for the site from community members.

The city will host a discussion on downtown Poulsbo policy from 4-7 p.m., Jan. 27 at the current city hall building.

Aside from topics such as garbage collection and placing a slow zone on Front Street, city officials will talk with residents about what they prefer to do with the old city hall property.

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