This is a good time to talk about Viking Avenue | Editorial

Courtesy Ford’s impending closure is sad news — sad for the owners, sad for the employees, and sad for Poulsbo. It spells the end of the auto row era that was a major economic force in Poulsbo for three decades. The vacant property will stand in sharp contrast to Courtesy owner John Hern’s optimism that Viking Avenue is “an excellent place for a grocery/drug store or a box store of some type … The infrastructure is already here.”

And yet, Hern is right. Street improvements were completed to the city limits. All necessary infrastructure is installed, such as curbs, gutters, sidewalks, street lighting, and utilities.

Although Viking Avenue has long been known as auto row, there are other established businesses here: Ag-related services, a bank, brewery, children’s clothing store, grocery, home services, movie theater and restaurants. Viking Avenue is a great alternative route to Silverdale and beyond; today, the thoroughfare accommodates an average of 12,724 vehicles a day, but that number was once 22,000. In 2007, during the auto row era, the city collected $633,091 as its share of sales tax revenue generated by Viking Avenue businesses. That number has decreased by more than half. Obviously, the potential is there.

Now is a good time to talk about Viking Avenue. Mayor Becky Erickson wants to engage businesses there about the thoroughfare’s future and how the city can help. The Herald is excited about the prospect, and hopes businesses and city leaders will come together and dialogue about how to revitalize this important thoroughfare.

What services are missing in Poulsbo that can be accommodated on Viking Avenue? Some city officials would like to see Viking Avenue’s vacant commercial space redeveloped with village-like mixed uses, with street-level stores and cafes and upper-level apartments and homes (Hern helped lure Regal Cinemas to Viking Avenue when cars and RVs were king of the thoroughfare). Erickson would like to see an electric- or hybrid dealership locate here. As stated earlier, Hern has advocated for a box store, drug store or grocery store; he managed to lure a John Deere dealer, Washington Tractor. Viking Avenue’s proximity to Liberty Bay and marine-related uses should be considered.

Erickson likes the idea of a business improvement area to market Viking Avenue. “The Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association formed when Poulsbo Village was built, and that was a very successful thing for them to do,” she said. Another idea: A fund which can make zero-interest loans to businesses to make visual improvements to their businesses and properties.

Even in hard times, Poulsbo’s other business districts have pulled through. All but a few Front Street spaces are rented. Poulsbo Village is fully occupied. Safeway has announced plans to build a store, pharmacy and gas station on 305 and Lincoln. New homes are being built.

Viking Avenue is an important part of the city’s economy. We are confident that out of dialogue will come a new future for this once vibrant thoroughfare.

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