Historic Freeland bowling alley is on the way out

Demolition has begun on the old Freeland Lanes, for 50 years South Whidbey’s only bowling alley.

An architect’s rendering of a retail-office building planned for the Harbor Avenue site of the former Freeland Lanes.

Demolition has begun on the old Freeland Lanes, for 50 years South Whidbey’s only bowling alley.

“We’re fully permitted and ready to go,” owner Steve Myers said of his previously delayed plans to build a retail-office building on the downtown Freeland site.

“The bowling alley’s coming down,” Myers said. “It will be gone by Thanksgiving.”

A construction fence has been put up around the property along Harbor Avenue, and Myers’ company, Sound Electric, is doing the dismantling, he said.

Myers owns two two-story commercial buildings next door at Main Street and Harbor Avenue. He plans a two-story, 10,800-square-foot structure on the bowling alley’s two lots.

The new building, expected to cost as much as $2.5 million, will include space for three retail businesses on the ground floor, with four office suites above, Myers said. The architect is Carlos Sienna Martin of Bellevue.

Myers’ firm will construct the building, which will be in a style complementing his buildings next door, he said.

Myers said construction probably would begin next spring.

He said there will be an elevator and a coffee shop in the new building, and that he is negotiating with several potential tenants.

“The economy is such that everybody is still on the fence,” Myers said.

Myers plans a “green” building, including solar panels on the roof to heat water, and a 1,700-gallon tank beneath the ground to catch rain runoff for irrigation and other water recycling.

There will be parking for 40 vehicles, and Myers is considering making six of the spaces plug-in stations for electric cars.

He said he bought the property nearly four years ago with the idea of keeping it as a bowling alley until he could redevelop it in the future.

The future arrived quickly.

Freeland Lanes, one of the few recreational venues on the South End, closed in June 2008 because the cost of insurance, the rising expense of real estate and other operating costs outstripped revenue.

At one point, avid bowlers collected petition signatures to send to elected officials urging that something be done to keep the alley open.

The old alley will get a nod in the new building. Myers said he plans to incorporate portions of the hardwood bowling lanes into flooring or trim. He said he has held onto much of the kitchen equipment, and has donated the pin-setting machines to an Oregon firm that will refurbish and distribute them to other bowling alleys.

He also said that much of the demolished building material will be recycled to other firms on the island.

Myers said the recent success of the fruit stand that has been set up on space he donated in front of the bowling alley shows the commercial potential of the site.

“It’s one of the most attractive retail spaces in Freeland,” he said. “If a tent works out as well as it did, it shows it’s a very good place to be.”