Building boom in Coupeville

"Question: Why are so many businesses moving in Coupeville?Answer: Because they can.For about the last 50 years, new businesses generally moved into Coupeville on a space-available basis. And given the town's location within Ebey's Landing National Historic Reserve, plus its mandate for preserving historic buildings and landscapes, business space hasn't always been easy to come by.But that's changing.Two new commercial buildings nearing completion on Coupeville's Front and South Main streets have added more than 8,800 square feet of business space to the town. And that's small compared to what's coming: Five new buildings planned for South Main will likely add more than 25,000 square feet of addition space, representing the biggest commercial building project in the history of the town.Builder Ted Clifton has plans for five more buildings of similar size on a 3.2-acre property behind Videoville, called Coupe's Village. In fact, Clifton has already lined up prospective tenants and investors. If all goes as planned, the six buildings, totalling about 30,000 square feet, will be completed by 2005.With all the added space, Coupeville's business community has responded in a couple of ways.Along the town's historic Front Street, existing Coupeville businesses have migrated to John Carr's recently completed project, an historic-looking 4,900 square-foot retail/office building.Meanwhile, over on South Main Street, both new and established businesses are moving into building A, the first of Clifton's six-building project.Though different in design, tenant appeal and construction materials, the new buildings seem to fit Coupeville's historic feel, said town mayor Nancy Conard.I think what's happening (with the Carr and Clifton projects) is compatible to the community, Conard said. On Coupeville's Front Street, a mini old town where 18th century buildings line both sidewalks, compatibility is a viable commodity. That, and location. That's why owner John Carr designed his 60-foot-wide building to resemble three historic store fronts, and why he went through an extensive design review process before building.The result is that four business - Jewelry by Lee, Coupeville Art Supply and Gallery, The Penn Cove Gallery, and Marcon International - have filled Carr's building even as last-minute construction work is being finished.With the exception of Marcon International, a commercial boat brokerage firm, all the businesses were housed within blocks of their new address and all will hold an open house during Coupeville's Art Walk this Saturday. (Marcon's open house is scheduled for Thursday.)Ann Wilson of Penn Cove Gallery said the allure of a more visible, more centralized Front Street location, as well as a bigger space, enticed the members of the art cooperative into moving. Likewise, Jewelry by Lee and Coupeville Art Supply are moving onto Coupeville's busiest street from less visible locations. At building A in Coupe's Village on South Main Street, most of the new tenants are have moved in.In fact, said Clifton, there is only one 500-square-foot space left for rent in the 3,940-square-foot building.So far, tenants include investment brokers, interior designers, event planners, landscape architects, CPAs, therapists and an in-home service provider.Tenants for the future buildings include a veterinarian, medical offices and up to three restaurants.Clifton, a custom-home builder for more than 25 years, said he expects to construct one building per year and that more than a third of the property will be given over to open space. He also said his plans for Coupe's Village have met with enthusiastic approval.Building A is a timber-framed structure. Outside, it looks like it could fit into the landscape of a nearby farm. Inside, it includes radiant floor heating, wall-to-wall carpeting and open ceilings, set off by beefy wooden beams.Clifton believes there has long been a pent-up demand for quality office space in Coupeville.The response we've had so far tells me that there are enough people out there who care about the type of place they spend eight hours a day, he said."

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