Fish food bank, City of Gig Harbor take one step closer to future nonprofit site

Ron Coen, president of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Fish food bank’s board, shows a refrigerator now full of food thanks to community donations.
Ron Coen, president of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Fish food bank’s board, shows a refrigerator now full of food thanks to community donations. Staff file

Rob Coen, co-founder of the Gig Harbor Peninsula Fish Food Bank, was excited to see the city take the next step in helping the nonprofit find a new, larger location to serve the community.

Gig Harbor City Council voted unanimously May 29 to allow Mayor Kit Kuhn to sign papers which closed a transfer of 3607 and 3611 Hunt Street, next to state Route 16, from Pierce Transit’s ownership to the city. Part of the agreement included exclusive rights for the food bank to work with the city to lease the land. According to the transfer paperwork, the city and food bank have five years to work out a lease agreement before the city can consider other uses for the property.

“We have received fantastic support from the community,” Coen said. “I think this is great. We are in uncharted territory, so there is going to be a lot of working around what we don’t know. Our goal right now is to create an agreement with the city so we can move ahead.”

Coen told the council that the nonprofit is looking to build a 7,000-square-foot building to house the food bank and other services it provides, such as education advisers and career-placement services.

“Since our beginning, our reach has grown by 400 percent,” Coen said. “We need to build for the future.”

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Coen said the food bank estimates the project to cost $2.5 million. The nonprofit is already collecting donations and is researching grants. So far it has raised over $200,000. Coen said more donations are expected now that the transfer is official.

“People want to know what they are committing too,” Coen said. “I know we can get the funds to make this happen.”

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The transit agency had purchased three adjoining parcels on Hunt Street in Gig Harbor in 2006 to build a park-and-ride that would connect with the existing Kimball Drive park-and-ride via a pedestrian bridge over Route 16. That project was canceled in 2009 during the economic downturn. One parcel later was sold.

The lease between the city and the food bank has not been written, but the city plans to allow the nonprofit to rent the land from the city for a “nominal fee.” Since the land consists of two parcels and does not connect to the city’s sewer system, FISH will have to configure which parcel will house the new facility and the septic system and place parking on the other parcel.

The city's next step is to decide how to proceed with leasing the property to the food bank, including terms of the lease.

Marina offers to build bridge at Jerisich

The owners of the Pleasure Craft Marina presented a proposal to build a bridge between their future restaurant and Jerisich Dock that would allow easy access for park visitors and restaurant customers to go from one dock to the next.

The marina has submitted plans to the city to redevelop 3215 Harborview Drive, located next to the Jerisich Dock near Skansie Park, into a future restaurant which would offer harbor views from the roof and a lower boardwalk for customers and the public. According to city documents, the marina is required to provide public access. The owners believe the stairs, which are not required by the city, would be a symbol of goodwill between them and the public.

City of Gig Harbor Courtesy

The current site is an empty beach. A chain-link fence is in place next to Jerisich Dock to keep visitors from falling off the dock to the beach below.

Project architect Jeanne Gagliano presented the idea to the council.

“Our proposal is to build a 2,495-square-foot restaurant that would be adjacent to the lift station and welcome plaza,” Gagliano said. “We have been working for two years with city staff on this. There’s a big gap, about three- to four-feet wide. There is existing pilings and the construction of the existing deck. The link we are proposing would be a staircase.”

Council members took interest in the idea, with some citing issues with the staircase not being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Councilman Spencer Abersold said he wishes the owners would consider taking the extra space needed to place in a ramp instead of a staircase so residents, like his elderly father, could also have easy access to the dock. Councilman Jim Franich, who uses a wheelchair, said the plans were inconsiderate to those who are not able-bodied.

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"I grant it's not convenient for everybody,” Gagliano said.

“I get it. Disabled people are second-class citizens,” Franich said.

Gagliano said the group’s intent was not to offend or put any members of the community at a disadvantage.

Councilwoman Jeni Woock and Franich also voiced concerns about the restaurant closing off the public portions of the dock and roof during non-business hours. Councilman Michael Perrow suggested the public portion of the dock and roof could obtain a dusk to dawn policy, the same as the city parks.

“The city shouldn’t require more from a private business than it does its public parks,” Perrow said.

Other concerns included if food and drink, including alcohol, from the restaurant would be brought to the public dock area. The concerns stemmed from issues the city says it is facing with other local businesses located near the park. Kuhn said the council didn’t need to be as concerned about the issues because restaurants have stricter standards.

“If a business does well, citizens are happy and do well. I hope we are working for the benefit of this city,” Kuhn said.

The council voted 5-1 to allow city staff to work on documents to be brought to council for future consideration. Woock voted against the proposal and Franich abstained from the vote.

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie