Southridge area ready for big boom

Ingrid Stegemoeller, Herald staff writerFebruary 4, 2009 

Looking out over bare land in Kennewick's Southridge area, Stacie Hamilton envisions her new home -- complete with a winery, tasting room and events venue.

"We just wanted a community," said the co-owner of Hamilton Cellars, which originally was set to open in West Richland.

But land use troubles changed plans for Stacie and her husband Russ, and now they're preparing to break ground on a 25,000-square-foot winery at Southridge that likely will open early next year.

Their project joins a growing complex of restaurants, shops, a hotel and other businesses sprouting up along Highway 395 near Southridge High School.

The Hamiltons initially planned to build Red Mountain View Wine Village on a 21-acre parcel they bought from West Richland last year.

But the city received a letter last fall from the Bureau of Land Management saying a winery would not be allowed on the land, which the city received from the federal government in 1983.

"We ask that you make a written assurance to us that no activity will occur on the parcel," the letter said.

The land originally was for a sewer treatment plant and was given under the Recreation & Public Purposes Act, which allows the government to give municipalities land at less than fair market value for recreational or public purposes, said the letter.

The city refunded the Hamiltons' money, but the couple have wine that's bottled and ready for sale and they needed a place to quickly open their business.

So they worked with Dean Maldonado, developer of South Ridge Village, and now plan their development, which also will include Stacie Hamilton's wealth management firm Hamilton Fisher, in Kennewick.

South Ridge Village is a 235-acre project that straddles Highway 395 and is designed to be a mixed-use area with residential and commercial development, including wineries, retail, restaurants, a hotel, bike paths and more, Maldonado said.

Meadow Hills Veterinary Center is celebrating its ground breaking at 4 p.m. today at its new Southridge location.

Other plans for the property include a possible amphitheater behind the Canyon Lakes dam and a bike kiosk where people can park their cars while riding on the trails.

An 84-room, four-story Comfort Suites hotel is planned for the west side of the property, as well as the possibility for another boutique hotel.

Taco Bell is set to build there once the neighboring hotel gets under way, and work is started on a tanning salon, Maldonado said.

He's also working on leases with a coffee shop and possibly a Pita Pit restaurant. And an apartment complex is another option for the west side of the Village.

HAPO Community Credit Union and Farmers Insurance already have opened offices in the area.

The city has worked on design standards for the Highway 395 corridor to make the area a "great entrance" to the city, said Mayor Tom Moak, noting the city adapted its regulations to allow for mixed-use areas and wineries.

Accommodating wine tourism is important for the Tri-Cities, which Moak said is a "wine hub."

With mixed-use areas, "people don't have to drive as much. It really creates neighborhoods where everything isn't auto-driven," Moak said.

South Ridge Village is shaping up to be one of those areas, with an emphasis on the wine industry.

AVA Wine Rooms will open Saturday. It's a project owned by Maldonado and his wife Whitney that is designed to showcase Washington wines from each of the state's 10 American Viticulture Areas.

"We've taken each of the AVAs and given them a store front," said Whitney Maldonado.

"They're wines that don't have a huge market share" that generally won't be found at stores or restaurants, she said.

The room opening Saturday features wines from the Horse Heaven Hills. Another building is planned at the Village to house tasting rooms for wines from the Wahluke Slope, the Rattlesnake Hills and the recently established Snipes Mountain AVA, she said.

The tasting room is next to recently opened Anelare, another tasting room that opened in December.

Dean Maldonado said he also has plans for three wine incubators on the east side of the highway and as many wineries as he can fit.

"I want mixed-used, a true destination," Dean Maldonado said, adding that he expects development of the project to take 15 to 25 years.

Though tightened lending standards are a bit of a concern, the fact that much of the site development such as roads and other infrastructure has been completed and that the development has several tenants lined up makes financing less worrisome, he said.

w Ingrid Stegemoeller: 582-1537; istegemoeller@

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