The slow march of Wheaton Way redevelopment has finally reached the old Kmart.
A Gig Harbor commercial real estate company says it will soon close a $3.3 million purchase of the drab former retail center, with plans to put $2 million more into a comprehensive remodel that will split its 85,000 square-foot shell into different businesses.
"Bremerton doesn't need another big box store," said Kevin Weiss, head of operations and finance for Weiss Companies, the buyers. "It's going to look completely different."
Kmart closed on the 4200 block of Wheaton Way in 2010 and the 1975-built storefront, owned by Bennett Investment LLC of Seattle, has been vacant ever since. Andrew B. Bassetti, Bennett's representative, did not respond to a call and email from the Kitsap Sun before deadline.
Weiss Properties plans to begin demolition, including removal of the facade that once held the Kmart logo, in March.
Weiss, a Kitsap County native who graduated from North Kitsap High School, said in a news release that the new fast ferry to Seattle and rising home prices in Seattle make Bremerton "an attractive alternative." But the company wanted to ensure it reconstructed the old Kmart property with tenant spaces popular with the community.
"This building has been empty for so long," Weiss said. "We asked ourselves, 'what can we do to bring it back to life?'"
A second floor will be built on the back half of the building with room for 400 to 500 storage units, a high-demand commodity in Kitsap County.
The front will be divided into a few retail spaces to face the parking lot. Weiss said the company is in talks with potential tenants.
The building's remodel is similar to the approach the 5-year-old company took at the Narrows Business Park in Gig Harbor. Weiss purchased a 60,000 square-foot bank-owned building in 2012 and split it into storage and mixed-use retail. Weiss said storage is full and there's even a wait list.
In East Bremerton, the demolition and remodel work will be performed by Redbrick Construction, which is partnering with Mission House, a recovery and work home for male addicts.
Empty, boxy buildings along East Bremerton's most-traveled thoroughfare are gradually reviving. In 2015, Fitness Evolution opened within a decaying shopping center on the 4300 block of Wheaton, later moving into a 23,000 square-foot space and becoming Planet Fitness. Wilco, an Oregon-based farming and pet supply chain, continues its own remodel of the old Lowe's home improvement store near the corner of Wheaton and Riddell Road, and has vowed to open this year. A Shari's Restaurant in the large parking lot of that complex was also remodeled recently, as was a facade where Pacific Fabrics is located.
Development seems to have accelerated following the Bremerton City Council's decision in Febrary 2014 to repeal a restrictive land use plan in the area that city leaders had once hoped would create a pedestrian-friendly mix of stores and dense housing. But developers never seemed to pursue such projects and the council killed the new standards.
In the long run for the former Kmart property, Weiss said the company is even contemplating taking out some of the parking closest to Wheaton Way and constructing new buildings there.
"We're excited to be a part of the community," Weiss said.