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North Kitsap Fishline moving to Viking Avenue
POULSBO — North Kitsap Fishline will move to the old Poulsbo RV site on Viking Avenue by February, giving it room to consolidate and expand its services — and possibly spur new development on the struggling thoroughfare.
Fishline bought the site from Poulsbo RV for $900,000, the appraised price, Fishline executive director Mary Nader said. The sale is scheduled to close Dec. 2. Remodeling will take about six weeks, with Fishline moving in by February.
Fishline owns outright its current location on 3rd Street. Nader said Fishline hasn’t decided whether to lease it out or sell it and pay down its mortgage on Viking Avenue.
The move will come at a good time for Fishline.
The non-profit agency is currently located in a 3,000-square-foot building on narrow 3rd Ave. where parking is at a premium. So is privacy; people queue up outside because the food bank can only accommodate five people at a time. Food is stored at four different locations and trucked in.
The Viking Avenue building is double the space, tucked away from the thoroughfare, with sidestreet access, plenty of parking, and a Kitsap Transit bus stop on the corner.
The move will come at a good time for Viking Avenue, where large parcels — remnants of the Auto Row heyday — are bank-owned expanses of asphalt and empty buildings.
The Viking Avenue site is 1.7 acres, and Nader said “half to a third of it we’ll never use,” referring to the portion fronting Viking Avenue. That site may be leased or sold for development.
Mayor Becky Erickson is advocating for the Poulsbo Farmers Market to move there, calling it a good fit. She said Fishline’s move is the first of several good things coming to the former Auto Row. She said she’ll know more by mid-December.
“Viking Avenue is going to be a very different place two years from now,” she said. “It took downtown Poulsbo three and a half years to turn around. If we can do something on Viking Avenue in the same timeframe, that’s a good thing and a good thing for our community.”
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more than $4 million was invested in Viking Avenue infrastructure — new center turn lane, bike lanes, sewer and water main extensions, traffic medians, improved storm drainage and landscaping, new sidewalks and curb gutters, paving and street lights — and earlier this year the planning department drew up incentives to encourage mixed-use development.
Erickson initiated a city marketing website, CrossroadsPoulsbo.com, which failed to take off, and at one time she toyed with a theme for Viking Avenue — “The Man’s Side of Town,” in reference to the auto-related businesses there.
But look past those large vacant lots left by the auto dealerships, and there’s a bank, a brewery, children’s clothing store, a church, grocery, restaurants, and home services. John Deere dealer Washington Tractor occupies a former used car dealership site. The Kitsap Children’s Musical Theatre rehearses in the old Courtesy Ford site, within view of the Regal Cinemas.
But Viking Avenue is still missing the push that comes from a high-traffic draw that could spur other businesses to move to the thoroughfare.
Ed Stern, a member of the Poulsbo City Council and the city’s Economic Development Committee, thinks the farmers market could be that draw.
“Number 1, it creates traffic count and that’s important to surrounding businesses,” Stern said. “We know that in talking to James Lumber, that we need more destination traffic, not pass by. By having a more permanent location, an all-weather location, the market can move to more than one day a week. That takes that traffic count and expands it by a magnitude.”
Despite the diversity of businesses on the thoroughfare, “there’s nothing at this point that increases traffic count. We already have an anchor tenant, the [Regal Cinemas]. People come from Port Ludlow to Port Townsend for the movie. A tie-in type business — a family restaurant, a brewery restaurant — is just waiting to happen there.”
Terry Burns, treasurer of the Poulsbo Farmers Market, said the market engaged in “intense negotiations” with Fishline and a state granting agency a couple of years ago to buy a site the organizations could share, “but a real estate deal was never put together,” he said.
“We need a permanent location. We also need a covered structure. I don’t think Fishline or the farmers market can make an investment in a structure — we’re both non-profits and we don’t have a lot of capital to make improvements.” For the market to move to Viking Avenue, it’s going to take a public-private partnership; the market has pitched such a partnership to the Port of Poulsbo.
“We want to be part of the revitalization of Viking Avenue,” Burns said. “It’s important to the city — it’s important to the whole area — and we believe we can be instrumental in that.”
The farmers market has more than 50 vendors in summer and about 25 in the winter. The market will generate almost $500,000 in sales this year, Burns said. Several businesses that started at the market have gone on to have their own storefronts.
Nader said Fishline wants to settle in at its new site before it figures out how the overall site can be used. “We have to not just plan for today, but plan for five to 10 years out,” she said. “If we build a warehouse, or create Mayor Erickson’s vision of a social services incubator, we need to know how much land and parking we need to have.”
But, she said of the Viking Avenue frontage, “The street-front part is not of interest to us. We will probably never build anything near the street.”Robert Hawkinson, a lawyer who lives near Viking Avenue, looks forward to Fishline and the farmers market moving to the thoroughfare.
“What it might do is draw some people down here to say, ‘There’s some potential down here,’ ” he said. “People here are craving services. We’d like to be able to walk to an upscale restaurant, would like to see some [walking] paths here. There are all kinds of possibilities.”
FISHLINE AT A GLANCE
In addition to its food bank, North Kitsap Fishline helps 150-200 households a month with:
— Eviction prevention.
— Utility assistance.
— First month rent/deposit.
— Emergency housing.
— Gas vouchers to job interviews, medical appointments.
— Prescription co-pays.
Fishline also provides weekend meals for 150-170 children, delivers groceries to 12-15 homebound clients, provides 400-425 households with holiday baskets and provide gifts/toys for Christmas for 400 or so children.
— Source: Mary Nader, executive director, North Kitsap Fishline