Cary Bozeman, second from right, at the groundbreaking ceremony for Bremerton's Anthony's.

Cary Bozeman, second from right, at the groundbreaking ceremony for Bremerton's Anthony's.

As I mentioned yesterday, I sat down with Cary Bozeman about a month before he announced he would not seek re-election and was stepping down as mayor. Here’s more from our conversation:

What can the city do to fill up these empty storefronts?

You got 10,000 people that live a block from here, right? Why aren’t they coming downtown and shopping in these places, right? A. There’s currently not a product they’re interested in. Except, they go to Anthony’s. B. The downtown’s been pretty unattractive as a place to go. So, you’ve gotta have something that’s gonna appeal to them.

What we can do is bring more people living here so there’s more people dynamically on the street. The retailer’s not going to attract the bodies. The bodies gotta be there.

The retail comes last. It always does. It follows people. It’ll be the last thing to work here. Even Anthony’s, perfect location, 10,000 people at the shipyard, beautiful restaurant, even they, on occasion, they struggle. The retail will be the last to work. This hotel will help. Getting people living down here, going to hotels down here, working down here, that will all eventually help support I think a quality retail space.

You talk about bringing people downtown: Did the housing authority overshoot with the condos in not making it something more affordable?

Yes. Chris, to answer your question, they missed it. They built too far above the market. Their initial sales interest looked encouraging. They really felt like they were OK, the county backed the bonds on it, and in the end, they misjudged. I think had they built a nice project but a little less expensive, they’d have all sold.

Those condos aside, what’s next for bringing people to live downtown?

Penny’s is our next big project. We need quality, affordable, rentable spaces for people who want to live and work downtown. For artists. Part of our strategy downtown is it becomes more of an art community. Ron Sher’s bought the building. The plan is to build four floors of apartments above the Penny’s building, and he’ll put a grocery store in and put retail in. He’s looking for a partner at the moment to do the apartments.

The retailer that we’re looking to attract is a multiplex theater. We’re close. We think that attracts people downtown for retailers. We’ve got a multiplex operator we think will come in. None of this is gonna happen until the economy turns around a little bit.

What kinds of retailers does downtown need as a catalyst?

We haven’t quite gotten the number of shoes on the street yet to support a lot of marginal retailers. If you’re just another Mexican restaurant that somebody can drive to out here in the mall, forget it. It ain’t gonna work. Retail today will only work if it’s special, if it’s quality, and you can’t hardly get it anywhere else. Everything we’re doing here hopefully will support retailers. Not marginal retailers in a market where there’s not enough people. That won’t work.

You think downtown Bremerton has too many marginal retailers?

I have no idea, I’m not a retail expert. I’m just saying any place, not just downtown Bremerton. Retail always comes last. People get impatient. The retail will be the last thing to work in downtown Bremerton. We’ve gotta bring people to live and to work downtown.

This is about lifestyle, living. This is a neighborhood now. That’s the future of these kinds of cities anymore, they’re lifestyle centers. It’s the densest neighborhood in the city, or will be.

10 years from now, 15 years from now, this is gonna be a great place to be, downtown Bremerton. Absolutely no doubt about it.

— Interview conducted, edited, and condensed by Chris Kornelis