Marsha Kremen thought she had fulfilled her major commitments. After more than five years in leadership at the Longbranch Improvement Club, first as vice-president, then president, and finally as trustee-at-large, she had earned her retirement from retirement. And then along came a project she could not turn down.
The LIC needs a roof. Not just any roof. A big roof. On a 1939-vintage building that has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1987. A building that also has obsolete wiring and inadequate insulation, heating and ventilation.
“We found old paperwork and over the past 30 years there have been two other attempts to get a new roof,” Kremen said. “We can’t kick this can down the road or it just won’t get done and the building will disintegrate.
“The club completed a five-year plan in 2022 and it included doing more community-based outreach,” she said. “Having a building that is warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer will help make that happen.”
The five-year plan, said LIC Board President Kelly Guenther, included optimal use of the gathering spaces — the forest and trails around the building, the community garden, the field, the clubhouse and the marina — and making people feel safe and connected.
“The roof aligns perfectly with our five-year plan,” Guenther said. “The kudos really go to Marsha for taking this big project on We would not be nearly where we are without her putting on the hat and shepherding all of this.”
Kremen has long-term ties to the Key Peninsula. Her mother grew up near Minter Creek and graduated from Vaughn Union High School, now the location of the KP Civic Center. She remembers picnics along Minter Creek as a child. When her parents bought property in Lakebay in 1972, she came to visit often as a young adult. In 2012 she and her wife Jilly Eddy built their retirement home on the property and became full-time residents. They dove into community activities right away.
“Way back in 2014 the club commissioned an historic structures report,” Kremen said. “The report was inches thick and included everything that needed to be done to upgrade the building and keep it in line with all the historic guidelines. The Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation gave its blessing.”
A number of improvements, which Kremen described as one-off restoration projects, have been completed, largely funded by matching grants through Pierce County. They include replacing doors, restructuring the foyer to its original form, replacing some windows on the back of the building that had lead-based paint, and some work in the kitchen.
The current project began in earnest in 2020 and is more than a roof replacement. “It’s big in many, many ways,” Kremen said. The initial focus has been on planning and design under the eye of project manager Bart Wolfe. “We got structural timber reports and completed a plan to upgrade the electrical system, remove the interior raceways that hold the wiring, replace the propane heating system with electrical and do a seismic retrofit,” Kremen said. “The work should dramatically decrease our carbon footprint.”
Insulation will go over the current roof — removal would damage the underlying structure — and then a new metal roof will be installed. Although the original roof was shingle, the current roof was installed prior to the building being placed on the historic register, which brought a sigh of relief to Kremen. If historic preservation rules had required shakes, the cost would have been prohibitive.
In February, the club got a grant from Pierce County for $35,000, which will allow it to complete the permitting process. “We had unanimous approval from the council,” Kremen said.
Washington Patriot Construction has been hired as the project contractor and estimates construction will take about five months.
The cost of the project is nearly $3 million. Kremen is working with Sheryl Low, president of the Longbranch Foundation, to fundraise. They have submitted an initial request to the state and Sen. Emily Randall (D-26th, Bremerton) and Rep. Michelle Caldier (R-26th, Port Orchard) have been supportive. She and Low will seek the remaining funding from foundations and other donors.
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