Oak Harbor city eyes building on Pioneer

Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley speaks with a Whidbey Island Bank employee during a tour.  - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley speaks with a Whidbey Island Bank employee during a tour.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor is banking on an office building purchase to facilitate sewer plant improvements.

Following a lengthy executive session Tuesday, the Oak Harbor City Council voted to enter into a purchase and sales agreement with Whidbey Island Bank.

If all goes according to plan, the city will purchase the Whidbey Island Bank 35,000-square-foot building and parking lot on Pioneer Way for $2.6 million. The new sewer treatment plant will be built in the spacious back lot, which borders Windjammer Park.

Meanwhile, city officials will ponder what to do with the building itself, Mayor Scott Dudley said.

The building once housed J.C. Penney and later Interwest Bank.

Whidbey Island Bank currently uses a fraction of the building as offices for its compliance services.

The Daily Grind coffee shop is located in the rear of the building.

Under the agreement, the bank will lease the building for a year, with two six-month options for extension.

Dudley took a Whidbey News-Times reporter on a tour of the large, two-story building Thursday.

The building sits largely empty and incredibly spacious, with roomy offices around each corner, several board rooms, an impressive file storage room and a huge gathering space with soaring ceilings on the top floor.

“We will have the time to figure out what we want to do with this space,” he said. “I think there will be a long list of options.”

Ideas already being discussed include moving the city library or City Hall into the building. It could easily accommodate both with space to spare.

On Tuesday, the council approved a $200,000 contract with an archeological firm to investigate the site for possible cultural artifacts and Native American remains.

City Administrator Larry Cort said the city is hiring a professional to evaluate the structural integrity of the building and another will do soil borings in the surrounding property.

The proposed treatment facility will extend 27 feet into the ground.

“We need to know what’s down there,” he said.

Based on archeological testing results, the council members will decide whether to  purchase the property, likely at a meeting in March.

Dudley said the price tag for the property is more than the $2 million originally estimated, but far below the bank’s original $4-million asking price.

The new plant, which uses a technology that’s largely odor-free, will be near the old sewage treatment plant and pumping station, but won’t intrude into Windjammer Park.

“There will be no net loss of park property,” he said.

Dudley said he’s glad the city was able to find a willing seller. Like the council members, he spoke against using the idea of using eminent domain to procure a property.

“I’m not one for swooping down and taking out a successful building,” he said.


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