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Luxury apartments could replace dated downtown Gig Harbor shopping complex

Owners of Peninsula Shopping Center are gauging public support for redevelopment of the 5.6-acre site.
Owners of Peninsula Shopping Center are gauging public support for redevelopment of the 5.6-acre site. themstreet@gateline.com

It’s not often Gig Harbor residents ask for more development downtown, but that’s what people say they want for a dated strip mall near the waterfront.

Roughly 60 people filled a ballroom Tuesday at the Inn at Gig Harbor to hear potential plans for the Peninsula Shopping Center at 3118 Judson St. It was a chance for the developer, Olympic Property Group, to test its ideas before taking any of them to the city.

OPG’s ideas include ripping out the oldest section of the building and replacing it with a 115-unit luxury apartment complex with underground parking. The apartment building could be as tall as five stories under one scenario.

People at the meeting gasped at that suggestion for a downtown where building heights are capped at two stories.

OPG president Jon Rose explained the taller the building, the more space there is for public amenities like a park-like town square. He cautioned there is no indication the Gig Harbor City Council would approve a five-story building. His company also is proposing two- and four-story buildings.

All of the plans leave a corner of the property open for the city to build a parking garage to meet the growing need for downtown parking. No deals have been made with the city for a garage either, Rose said.

Don’t leave downtown Gig Harbor half ugly. This building is full ugly.

Justin Stiefel, CEO and founder Heritage Distilling Co.

OPG, the real estate arm of timber company Pope Resources, is working with the shopping center’s owners on redevelopment plans.

Built in 1951, the 5.6-acre Peninsula Shopping Center is the largest contiguous piece of property downtown. The site is anchored by 7 Seas Brewery, but not much else. QFC left the site in 2011, followed by Rexall the same year and Ace Hardware in 2015.

The building is “tired and obsolete” under current development standards, Rose said. The owners want to do more with the site. But if residents don’t want the project, it won’t happen.

“If it looks like it’s going to be a holy war and it’s going to destroy life as we know it in Gig Harbor, then the owner and OPG will leave it and walk away,” Rose said. “But we hope to do collaborative work with the community to redevelop the area.”

Three members of the family behind Tacoma’s Milgard Manufacturing own the center. As residents of Gig Harbor, the owners have watched people fight change downtown for years, Rose said.

This is really about political will and community desire. If you really want somebody to do this, tell people to support it because the voices against this will be much louder than the voices for it.

Jon Rose, president Olympic Property Group

That includes public opposition in 2013 to taller buildings downtown and pushback in 2015 against a code amendment that allowed more restaurants along a stretch of waterfront known as Millville.

“The surprise here was people saying, ‘You’re not doing enough,’ ” Rose said Tuesday night of initial public reaction.

That’s the position of Heritage Distilling Co. founder and CEO Justin Stiefel, whose tasting room is walking distance to the center. He questioned why the entire site wouldn’t be redeveloped. The building housing 7 Seas remained untouched under the proposal.

“Don’t leave downtown Gig Harbor half ugly,” Stiefel said. “This building is full ugly. ... Do the whole thing.”

OPG didn’t draw up plans for the entire site because “it is so challenging to make changes downtown,” Rose said. “We haven’t even let ourselves think about it.”

Given the feedback OPG received at the meeting this week, the developer plans to approach the owners of the shopping center about developing a plan to redevelop the entire site. Those plans would be the subject of a future public meeting.

“This is really about political will and community desire,” he said. “If you really want somebody to do this, tell people to support it because the voices against this will be much louder than the voices for it.”

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley

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