PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has backed a developer’s plan to build a five-story housing complex and retail center with a parking garage at 222 W. Front St.
It is the latest project to be announced in what will become a downtown building boom in 2020.
Eric Dupar plans to build the estimated $22 million, multi-purpose structure on the surface parking lot he has leased from the city since 1998.
The lot, which is slated to be transferred to Dupar, is south of Front Street, west of Oak Street and east of North Olympic Healthcare Network.
The privately funded project will include 62 to 72 housing units — condominiums, apartments or a combination of both. It will have a ground-level seafood restaurant and bar, 3,600 to 5,600 square feet of retail space and 326 parking stalls below ground and in an adjoining parking structure west of the residential units.
The existing parking lot at 222 W. Front St. has 126 stalls. Dupar’s project will result in no net loss of public parking and more parking for the development and surrounding businesses, city officials said.
“We feel really good about what we’ve put together, and we’re more than willing to work with the city on anything we need to do to make it the best project it can be,” Dupar told the City Council this week.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to direct staff to appraise the property, initiate a process to declare it surplus and “negotiate with Mr. Dupar a term sheet providing framework for transfer of the property, mitigation for loss of parking, permitting, utilities and assurance that the construction would be completed in a timely manner.”
Several council members lauded the project, saying it would enhance the downtown area, provide needed housing and generate customers for downtown businesses.
“We’re changing our downtown for the future, and I’m very proud that this council has an opportunity to embrace this project that is going to enhance that property in so many ways,” Council member Cherie Kidd said.
The new building would sit directly across Front Street from the $45 million Port Angeles Waterfront Center, which is scheduled to break ground in late August.
It is a block-and-a-half from the future site of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s four-star waterfront hotel. That project is scheduled to commence before March 2020.
In a Wednesday interview, Dupar said the 222 W. Front St. project would be constructed on a “very aggressive,” 18-month timeline.
“My real goal is to break ground before May,” said Dupar, a Bellevue-based real estate investor and developer.
City Manager Nathan West, who recommended the council action, said Dupar will need to obtain a conditional use permit to build the proposed 67-foot-tall structure.
The city has a 45-foot height limit for downtown buildings, requiring a quasi-judicial hearing before a city hearings examiner, West said.
“I do think under the current code, this is something that can be achieved,” West said of Dupar’s project.
“But obviously there is a land-use process before this project that we have to work through, and we’re committed to working through that. We’re also very excited about this project at the staff level.”
Dupar said the priority for construction will be to restore parking as soon as possible.
“We’re going to work out how much it’s going to cost to maintain that parking,” Dupar, 62, said in a telephone interview.
“Everybody wants to make this work, and I do too.”
Once completed, the project would add 200 parking stalls at 222 W. Front St., helping to serve the surrounding neighborhood and Port Angeles Waterfront Center.
“That’s a huge plus,” said Chris Fidler, executive director of the Waterfront Center.
“But add to that new downtown living, retail and restaurant options right across from our campus. It really changes how we are all going to be looking at the our waterfront very soon.”
The 40,000-square-foot Port Angeles Waterfront Center has been designed with a performance hall that seats 300 on the orchestra level and another 150 in the balcony.
“The Dupar project will be a tremendous compliment to the Waterfront Center campus and the arts and events programming we will be presenting immediately across the street,” Fidler said Thursday.
“I believe Mr. Dupar has been very earnest in pursuing a design that works not only for us but for the entire neighborhood.”
Marc Abshire, Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director, said Dupar’s project would help solve parking challenges and “change the downtown area in a very positive way.
“It comes at a really great time for the downtown business district with a lot of other projects and a lot of other developments that are happening, from the refurbishment of the Red Lion [Hotel] all the way down to the McKinley mill, but specifically closer into the downtown area with the new hotel and the performing arts center,” Abshire said in a Wednesday interview.
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe plans to open the $20 million to $25 million, four-story, 86-room waterfront hotel at 110 E. Railroad Ave. and 111 E. Front St. by December 2023. It is slated to have a three-story garage, indoor and outdoor restaurants, a bar and meeting room.
“I don’t think three or four years ago [Dupar’s project] would have made a lot of sense, but right now it makes a ton a sense,” Abshire said.
“It’s happening organically, and we’re really fortunate to have Eric Dupar wanting to be a part of the growth of downtown.”
In 1999, Dupar and his crew reconstructed the former JC Penny building at 201 W. First St., which now houses the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
Dupar said he stood on the roof of that building 20 years ago, looked across the parking lot and said: “We need to build here.”
Under the terms of a renewed lease with the city, Dupar was granted in 2014 a right of first refusal to purchase the surface parking lot and build a parking garage if the City Council decided to sell it, West said in a memo to the council.
To make room for the new structure, Dupar said he would remove the vacant building at 120 N. Oak St. on the southwest corner of Front and Oak streets.
The Oak Street building is owned by Ron Lambert of Bennett’s Coastal Restaurants, who plans to open a seafood restaurant and bar on the ground level of the new complex.
“A project like this is the catalyst for further projects just like it, and I can’t think of a city more ripe and ready for some development of this nature,” said Lambert, who operates Bennett’s Fish Shacks in Westport and Ocean Shores.
Lambert told the City Council that the restaurant would serve halibut and cod fish and chips, broiled salmon, fresh Dungeness crab cakes and burgers.
“It’s got a chic, shabby vibe to it,” Lambert said.
“That’s why they’re called Bennett’s Fish Shacks.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].