Region Of Boom | KUOW News and Information

Region Of Boom

KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Emily Fox speaks with KUOW reporters Joshua McNichols and Carolyn Adolph about why they spent a month reporting on Bremerton, and what it taught them about our growing region.


Linda Johnson, 33, a single mother of three, holds her 4-month-old daughter, Zimera, while sitting in her car that she often times sleeps in, on Thursday, June 29, 2017, in Bremerton.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Linda Johnson, 33, has three children and a four-door sedan with diapers stashed in the back.


Mike Heath, left, laughs  as Blue Collar Tattoo owner Sean Ewan cleans his arm before tattooing a tribute to Metallica, on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, in Bremerton, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Tattoo parlors tend to cluster near the Navy base in Bremerton. And indeed, a good chunk of the work done there is nautical in nature.

But it’s not all octopuses and anchors.

There were about 25 passengers on the final trip of the morning from Seattle. The Rich Passage I holds 118 people.
KUOW Photo/ Carolyn Adolph

In a region where traffic congestion is making commutes longer and longer, one commute just got shorter. It now takes half an hour to get from Seattle to Bremerton.

Kitsap Transit’s fast ferry service began Monday morning.

Display at the Valentinetti Puppet Museum in downtown Bremerton, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Starting Monday it will only take half an hour to reach Bremerton if you take Kitsap Transit’s fast ferry. It runs from the King County dock just south of Colman dock – the one used by the water taxis – to a dock close to WSDOT’s car ferry terminal in Bremerton.

Until today, a car trip from downtown Seattle to Snohomish County took less time than a ferry trip to Bremerton. Now, the opposite is true. 

Paul Lundy repairs typewriters for a living.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Office space is cheap in Bremerton. That's one reason you can find eccentric businesses there, like a business that repairs old typewriters.


Manette, seen here from the ferry, is one of the few Bremerton neighborhoods with an active association. Bremerton Neighborhoods Now! would like more neighborhoods to join their ranks.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Bill Radke speaks with Marie Vila, co-chair of Bremerton Neighborhoods Now!, about why she thinks block parties, potlucks and "crappy dinner parties" are what Bremerton needs right now. 

Dan Schiaffo's business card reads 'Laser Craftsman.' Tap/click on the image for more photos.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

It's a lot less expensive to live in Bremerton than on the Seattle side of Puget Sound. That's allowed many people to pursue their way of life. But housing costs have started to tick upward, and builders are redeveloping land where cheap rental housing used to be. The result: fewer cheap places around.

Betty Walker waits for shipyard workers to speed walk past her restaurant, the Sweet and Smokey Diner. The shift ends a few minutes from now at 4:02
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bremerton grew up next to a Navy base.

The town used to be the economic center of the Kitsap Peninsula. But then, in the 1970s and 80s, development shifted to the suburbs around Bremerton. Now the city wants to get some of that mojo back.


Streets in Bremerton's downtown are frequently quiet. This photo was taken around 11:00 on a Monday morning, in front of the old Bremer department store.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Bremerton’s downtown was a bustling place decades ago. Now it only bustles for a few minutes around 4 p.m. when the Navy shipyard lets out. The rest of the time, it can be a little too quiet.

El Balcon, Bremerton. The city ousted the tiny restaurant during the recession but invited it back after its owners and their five children became homeless.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

When Mario Amaya first set foot in Bremerton in 2009, he fell in love.


Demolition in Bremerton, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Bremerton is pursuing growth, and that means demolition. Developers have been  buying old buildings and replacing them with apartments and condos.  Carolyn Adolph of KUOW's Region of Boom team went to one demolition on the edge of the city’s downtown. She found several residents who were cheering the redevelopment, including Brian Kelley.

War boxes visible in a Bremerton alley.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Tiny, affordable houses line some of Bremerton’s alleys. They’re called “war boxes,” remnants of the massive building boom that transformed Bremerton during World War II.

Studying that boom and the housing it left behind offers clues on what it would take to truly meet our region's current housing needs.


Maggie Conyer of Strategy Real Estate shows what's for sale now. They're pretty good if you're from the Seattle side but getting up there if you're from Bremerton.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Bremerton is a place where people of many income levels live beside one another. It’s been that way for decades. People here were brought together by the military, and they could stay together because of low housing prices.

Kenny Wayne Gunner plays guitar in downtown Bremerton at lunch time
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Earlier this year, the Navy scraped the hull of the U.S.S. Independence to prepare it for dismantlement. That likely released heavy metals into the waters of Puget Sound, which is bad for salmon and orcas. The Navy didn’t get a permit for the work, so environmental groups sued this week.

But in Bremerton? It's going to take more than that to shake this town's love of the Navy.


Passengers on Kitsap Transit's Port Orchard -Bremerton ferry. Soon a modern vessel will take on a new route - Bremerton to Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Bremerton hopes to be the next bedroom community for Seattle. The mayor is promoting the city, and developers are building places for people to live.

The crew of an unidentified 'sturgeon class' submarine like the U.S.S. Parche, in 1980
PHC Robert K. Hemmerly/Dept of Defense Still Media Collection,

Bremerton, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle, is a military town. On the ferry ride over, you can sometimes see aircraft carriers and submarines. But there’s another kind of defense industry set to grow in and around Bremerton, too. An industry that defends us against cyber warfare, and it benefits from the area’s military expertise.


Vietnam Vet Steve Gardener at the Drift Inn remembers Bremerton's rough and rowdy past
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bremerton's mayor wants people who've been priced out of Seattle to move there. But there's been something holding Bremerton back: the town's reputation. Bremerton used to be known less for its beautiful water views and more for its bar fights and prostitution.


Downtown Bremerton.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle is the fastest-growing city in the country, which means bad traffic and increasingly unaffordable housing.  

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Auburn police officer Aaron Williams furrows his brow as he reroutes his patrol car to a 911 call.

“Yeah, you can send me,” Williams responds to the radio dispatch.


Photo courtesy of The Fung Bros

The Fung Bros, Andrew and David Fung, have more than a million followers on their YouTube channel. (And yes, they're real biological brothers.) 

Jeremy Chirinos of Renton was in middle school when Jimi Hendrix's house arrived. The failure of a museum project that would have surrounded the house meant he had an affordable place to grow up.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The body of musician Jimi Hendrix lies in a Renton cemetery. Across the street is the Hi-Land Mobile Manor Park, which looks like it hasn’t changed much since it was built in the 1950s.

A few years ago, a 900-square-foot house showed up to the mobile home park on a flatbed truck trailer. It was Hendrix’s childhood home. It rolled up to the mobile park because of a dream. A dream that would not come true.


The view from the back of an apartment complex in Skyway, in unincorporated King County
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Nathan Phillips is an executive of the YMCA in South King County. He says poverty looks different in the suburbs than it does in the city. He took Region of Boom reporter Carolyn Adolph on a tour of the Kent Valley and beyond. They stopped in Skyway, in unincorporated King County. It's home to many newly-arrived immigrants.  

Jockey Javier Matthias on McDove. McDove and Distinguishable are the Green Bay Packers of horses, being owned collectively by owners of the Emerald Racing Club.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Distinguishable, a 4-year-old fillie, sucked a carrot from Vince Bruun's hand. 

"I find she's got a bottomless pit of a stomach," Bruun said. Which brings us to the heart of the problem: Owning a racehorse is really expensive. And the people interested in spending a fortune on racehorses are disappearing. "We're losing the whales in our industry," Bruun told me. 

Emerald Downs has a plan to save the whales.


Gwen Allen Carston in her store, C & G Hair & Beauty Supply, which has become a center of black life in Kent.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Gwen Allen Carston is the owner of a beauty supply shop in Kent. She is also a founder of the Kent Black Action Commission. Region of Boom reporter Carolyn Adolph visited her to ask how life in Kent is evolving as people from so many backgrounds move in. 

Ronnie Schmidt once volunteered for Food Lifeline. Then he saw a posting for a job driving a truck for the organization. 'You see a lot of seniors that need this help. So it's nice doing it.'
KUOW Photo/Posey Gruener

Most of the poor people in our region live in the suburbs. That can create problems for organizations like Food Lifeline, a nonprofit food distribution center. One solution for getting perishable food to needy people spread over a large area? A truck.

The Birchcrest, a motel in South King County. The motel serves as a low-rent solution for people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Emily Fox speaks with Brookings researcher Elizabeth Kneebone, co-author with Alan Berube of "Confronting Suburban Poverty in America."

Kneebone and Berube chose five locations to study for their book. South King County was one of them, Kneebone told Fox, because it demonstrates so many national trends. 

Cross this log bridge to reach an island in Auburn where some homeless people live.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

There's an island in the middle of the White River in Auburn.

To get there, you cross a log bridge and follow two separate trails. That’s when you see them: Semi-permanent shelters people have built. One looks like a big family tent but made of logs and sticks all woven together — whatever people could find.


Jeffrey Basket is fighting the foreclosure of his home in Auburn. He is among the people whose wages never fully recovered from the Great Recession.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

South King County has long been a destination for working people seeking home ownership.

But prices have been rising and not people's ability to pay.

Tim Thomas, University of Washington

South King County has long been a place where people with modest incomes could find a home.

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