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Developer spurs ‘renaissance’

The developer of a proposed mixed-use development on Pioneer Way predicts that it will create the “critical mass” necessary to create a revitalized downtown crawling with pedestrian shoppers browsing a wide mix of quality retail shops.

Fred Flemming of Bellingham-based Bayshore Development Company, LLC, said the company has submitted a binding site plan application to the city for development of a mixed-use project on the long-vacant Copeland Lumber site.

“A city is only as vibrant as its downtown,” he said. “This downtown is in the middle of a renaissance and our plan fits right into this.”

The proposal is very ambitious, though Flemming cautions that the plans are preliminary and haven’t been approved by the city.

The proposal is for a 226,462-square-foot development on the empty 2.49-acre lot between Pioneer Way and Bayshore Drive. That includes seven buildings with 28,000 square feet of retail and office space, 135,000 square feet of residential space and a 60,000-square-foot underground parking garage.

Though the numbers may seem large, Flemming said the scale and design will fit in with the rest of the downtown. Moreover, he said the project will include a pedestrian mall and plaza that he hopes will become a focal point for the entire community.

The proposed project is a mixed-use development composed of two-story retail and office space on Pioneer Way, three “plaza commons buildings” at the center that consist of five-stories of condominiums over an enclosed parking garage. The plan also calls for the development of three-story town homes and two retail spaces along Bayshore Drive, according to information from Bayshore Development.

“There is an opportunity for a development there that will do very good things for the downtown,” Flemming said, “kind of solidify it.”

The project will require “minor zoning changes,” Flemming said.

Bayshore Development is working with the Seattle architectural firm, Mithun, to create a unique project with high-quality materials and a subtle nautical theme.

Flemming said the central concept is to link downtown Oak Harbor to the water with a landscaped pedestrian mall that flows through the middle of the project. The mall extends Jensen Street to the water and the waterfront trail.

A press release from Bayshore Development states that specialty shops on Pioneer Way will frame a public plaza “that could become the focal point for community celebrations, farmers markets, or festivals to showcase traditions, heritage, or culture.”

Flemming said the high-end residential units will bring more affluent people to the area.

“When people live in a downtown area,” he said, “they make darn sure the downtown is healthy, vibrant and secure.”

The five-story plaza commons buildings will include two-story penthouses at the top, undoubtedly with amazing views of the water and mountains.

Flemming learned about the development opportunity from a local realtor.

For 25 years, city and business groups have tried to lure a company to build a waterfront hotel and conference center on the site, but Flemming said market studies showed that this type of mixed-use development would be the better fit.

What convinced Bayshore Development to make a big investment in Oak Harbor, he said, is the city’s adoption of the tourism-boosting Windjammer Plan to revitalize and redevelopment the downtown and waterfront.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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