EAST BREMERTON — A new grocery store and three chain restaurants are planned for a longtime Wheaton Way shopping complex being rebranded as Bremerton Station.
MAJ Development Corporation, of Vancouver, Wash., purchased the complex and its parking lots, at Wheaton's intersection with Riddell Road, in December for $12.5 million, according to the Kitsap County Treasurer's Office.
The company's plans for 2022 include a Chipotle and MOD Pizza at the corner of an intersection it notes carries more than 80,000 cars each day, not far from a number from where a combined 700 apartment units are under construction. It hopes to open a Wendy's Restaurant south of the other two in 2023.
"From what we’ve seen, a lot of people are moving to Bremerton," said Kristin M. Ashenfelter, the project's manager. "It seems to be more affordable than some of the surrounding cities and the commute across the water to Seattle is very reasonable with the express ferry system. Wheaton Way SR-303 is heavily traveled, and retailers want that visibility for their business."
The company also says it has a tenant to fill a 23,000-square-foot grocery store in between the existing Wilco Farm Store and Planet Fitness but has not yet made public the identity of the grocer. Other spaces in the same building remain vacant.
Its plan for the complex includes sidewalks and enough space for a planned roundabout that will be installed at the corner of Wheaton Way and Riddell Road in the years ahead.
Kelli Lambert, a senior planner with the city of Bremerton, said the company met with city officials for what's known as a pre-submittal conference in early November. No permits for work on the site have yet been issued.
The company purchased the complex, on the city of Bremerton's northern border, from the Zarelli family, which developed the long-running Merit Mart store more than 55 years ago. The commercial corridor looked to become Kitsap County's new retail center in the late 1970s, when developer Ron Ross pushed to develop a mall on Clare's Marsh, a wetland near the intersection there. But pressure from the existing downtown Bremerton landlords pushed Ross to scrap the project; eventually, a mall came to Kitsap, but it was built in Silverdale.
Most business all but dried up in the Zarellis' complex in the early 2000s, when Lowe’s Home Improvement closed in 2002 and moved to a new, bigger location north of city limits. Later, developers balked at a new regulatory plan that banned drive-thrus and required pedestrian and density-style development along the highway, and it was ultimately withdrawn by the City Council.
That seemed to help spur new growth, including the arrival of Planet Fitness in 2015 and Wilco, an Oregon-based farm store, in 2018.
Meanwhile, a forested property behind the old Lowe's location was logged in 2016. About two years later, the family sold it for $3.2 million to Riddell Road Associates, which is an LLC managed by a Tacoma-based development company. Construction of a 323-unit complex is underway there.