Seattle is the fastest-growing city in the country, which means bad traffic and increasingly unaffordable housing.
Across the water is Bremerton, which will soon be a 28-minute ferry ride away. The small city is hoping to be the region’s next bedroom community. A fast ferry launches in Bremerton this summer, improving the city’s case.
Patty Lent, mayor of Bremerton, put out a video to make her pitch.
“I would like young professionals and young families to move to Bremerton,” she says on the video, as jazz plays and visions of old houses and new condominiums sweep by.
Lent says Bremerton is building hundreds of new places to live.
“They are half the price” compared to Seattle, she says, before pouring salt in the Seattle side’s collective wounds: “If you work across the water, the ferry travel is much more relaxing and a beautiful ride compared to the I-5 corridor.”
So how do people in Bremerton feel about the prospect of having Seattle show up on their doorstep? It's easy to find out: You can stumble on it as a reporter did, finding a meeting of local history geeks in the back of a shop. Old maps were spread out everywhere.
Mark Morton was in the middle of this meeting: “I am not a fan of the direction this town has been taking. Bremerton was a working class, blue collar town. And it's supposed to be here to support the Bremerton-Kitsap county community. I don’t believe it’s supposed to be a bedroom community for Seattle.”
It’s a view that has a couple of variants in Bremerton.
People say they cherish their strong local culture, the military history, the artists who have found inspiration here. The city has a certain character. Mike Barnet, a Bremerton booster, puts it this way: “We are generous, we are determined but most of all, we are scrappy.”
Want to learn more about Bremerton? KUOW's Region of Boom team is there all month. You can find their stories here.
People in Bremerton worry about people from Seattle snapping up cheap homes, so local people can’t get them. But there is little formal protest.
“I don’t fight against it,” said Morton. “I don’t support it. I think it was the wrong direction to go. I think they should focus on Kitsap Peninsula — how do we make Bremerton better for that? Not how do we make Bremerton more attractive to Seattle? And that’s where I believe their direction is right now.
So why is Bremerton trying to entice people from Seattle? Because the city has decided that it needs renewal. There’s a downtown full of empty mid-century buildings. And there’s housing that needs to be either torn down or fixed up.
On the Seattle side of the sound of people are looking for fresh options. An affordable home. A better commute.
And next month, people will be able to get from Bremerton to Seattle in half an hour on a foot ferry run by Kitsap Transit. That’s half the time the state ferry takes. This could be a game changer for both sides of the Sound.