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Kingston Firehouse project rolling along

KINGSTON — While most major projects in the North End are skidding to a halt, there is one Kingston enterprise that’s persevering. Pushing on in construction, plans and possibilities is the old Kingston Firehouse located just off State Route 104, just up from the downtown core.

A new movie theater with the opportunity for live performances, a video rental store complete with a world class film library, a community meeting room and a restaurant with seating and a full kitchen are projected to open within the firehouse March 2009.

It’s a joint venture between four men invested in the community: Homeland Construction owner Rick Lanning, Peninsula Video owner and Kingston High school soccer coach Craig Smith, and development business owners Dave and James Wetter.

The men received the go-ahead and permits from Kitsap County Department of Community Development (DCD) on Nov. 3 to start demolition, lay foundation and install necessary plumbing. By Friday, the transformation of the old firehouse into a community cultural centerpiece was well under way.

“That’s how we do it,” Lanning said laughing at how quickly the process actually took. “There was a time this would have taken months and months with DCD. It probably took about 12 weeks.”

Lanning said the men owe a lot of the quick permitting process to more streamlined measures of DCD. To change the use of the building from a fire station to include a restaurant, movie house and meeting space, the men needed to obtain an administrative conditional use permit, known as ACUP in developer lingo.

Larry Keeton, director of DCD, said before he was appointed director in 2006 it typically took an average of 453 days before businesses received an approved ACUP. Now, Keeton said it takes an average of 154 days.

“Our performance measures show we are better at getting our permits out the door and are getting them out in a timely manner,” Keeton said.

The DCD lost 18 total positions this year, 14 from layoffs in September because of budget cuts.

Keeton said performance reports were completed from 2006 through Sept. 2008, before the positions were cut.

“It will be interesting to see what it looks like in the fourth quarter report in the end of December,” he said.

“Will we continue to have that same level of productivity or same percentage at the end of the fourth quarter? I think we will.”

In regard to the quick turnaround for the firehouse, Keeton said the men submitted a readable, usable plan supported by Kingston’s zoning requirements and had a good design.

“Their proposals are easy to support and it made sense ,good use of the property,” he said.

Although Lanning, Smith and the Wetter men are the firehouse project originals, others are hopping onboard to help the effort including Kelly Muldrow, a commercial leasing agent from Kingston’s Windermere office.

Muldrow, who is currently interviewing for the perfect restaurant owners, will act as the restaurant’s space leasing agent.

“We're looking for someone who serves great breakfast, is open in early morning hours when Kingston citizens and business leaders wish to get together and have breakfast,” Muldrow said. “They’ve got to have experience running a nice upscale restaurant. Someone who has done it before; someone we are confident will be a long-term partner.”

Muldrow also is making sure Smith has a seamless move from his Peninsula Video current location near Kingston’s Albertsons to the new firehouse. Smith is also heading the theater side of the building.

Looking at the building from State Route 104, the right side of the building is devoted to Smith’s operations — the theater, concession stand and Peninsula Video rental store. It’s currently where the two fire engine doors are located.

The restaurant and meeting space are in the left side of the building. The men said they hope to keep the building looking like a firehouse and opted to keep the name as it’s a historic landmark building to the town.

The men are also hoping to create synergy as the middle “pin” central to Kingston and slated future projects such as the Village Green. The Village Green project will add a playing field, new community center and senior housing close to the firehouse’s back yard.

“This whole place is going to be lifted up,” Lanning said. “It’s all happening right here.”

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