Gateway: Opinion

With One Harbor Point project off the table, where do we go from here?

Tyler Hemstreet, The Peninsula Gateway editor
Tyler Hemstreet, The Peninsula Gateway editor The News Tribune

In case you missed it, the front-page story in last week’s paper detailed the end of the One Harbor Point project in Gig Harbor.

Officials with the development proposed by the Ben B. Cheney Foundation on the Haub triangle property at Harborview and Soundview drives in Gig Harbor announced they are withdrawing from the development agreement with the city for the project.

We’ve written quite a few stories about this project over the last year or so. There were many viewpoints. Some in the community hated the size of the project. Some hated the fact that the Cheney Foundation chose a site that sits right near the entrance to historic downtown. Some screamed and cried about the potential the project had to cause traffic headaches through downtown. Others hated the process by which the development agreement passed through the Gig Harbor City Council.

Still, others didn’t like the fact trees would be cut down or the fact that a heron nesting site would be destroyed — even though several studies proved that was indeed not the case.

And lets not even get started on all the code variances allowed in the project, others shouted.

My general thought was that people who were okay with the project moving forward didn’t get very vocal about it, while those who couldn’t stand it were extremely vocal about their feelings.

While project haters were quick to sound the trumpets while claiming victory on social media, it might be a hollow win.

Now that the Cheney Foundation will not move forward with the project, where does that leave the community?

The Letter to the Editor by Brad Cheney detailing the decision made no mention of what will now happen with the plot of land owned by the Haub family. Some would like to see a park be developed on that plot. The Boat Barn, which the city would have received as part of an arrangement had the development agreement been approved, now looks like it could be demolished.

I’ve heard some estimates for that plot of land come in at between $5 and $7 million. A spokesman for the Haub family said in the beginning that if the One Harbor Point project didn’t materialize, the family was going to sell the land.

If a developer does purchase the land, the likelihood of the Boat Barn surviving any transition of ownership is slim. Those waterfront lots will likely be a hot commodity.

And what about the trees? Assuming the parcel is split into lots in order to maximize profits for the developers, I’m doubting very many trees will survive. What we’re left with is a grouping of multimillion dollar homes with a prime view spot in the heart of downtown. Is that better than what the Cheney’s would have built? Maybe from a traffic standpoint, but perhaps not a community inclusion point of view.

The bigger question is what this does to the idea that a large-scale development project can get built downtown. Did the way this project played out poison the well for future potential projects that could enhance the quality of life for residents?

I’ve had many conversations with residents who think the Peninsula Shopping Center project proposed by Olympic Property Group in 2016 could be a good thing if the scale and scope are agreed upon. But the center is owned by another local family — one which is very concerned about leaving a good legacy.

I think the last thing they are going to want to do is get into a back-and-forth public spat with residents and city officials. We’ve all seen how that can play out.

Tyler Hemstreet: 253-358-4150, @gateway_tyler

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