Port of Kennewick marks 95 years of community service

BY TIM ARNTZEN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PORT OF KENNEWICK March 28, 2010 

The Port of Kennewick is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year, and we are proud of our service to the community and taxpayers. Throughout its history, the port has worked to grow jobs, build infrastructure and improve the region.

Within Washington, port districts are public agencies/local governments managed by locally elected port commissioners who are focused on local priorities. At the Port of Kennewick, "local" involves a 1,000-acre district, which includes Kennewick, Richland (south of the Yakima River), West Richland, Finley, Plymouth, a portion of Benton City, and unincorporated Benton County.

Citizens are demanding better access to their river shores. They are seeking to expand and diversify the mix of businesses and industries that sustain our community. And they are clamoring for investments in unique attractions, public facilities and waterfront amenities that create a "quality of place."

Port leadership is responding to the taxpayers and its actively engaged citizens. We are helping revitalize core neighborhoods. We are selling land, leasing property, investing in shoreline amenities and managing transportation assets (rail, air and marine) for the public benefit.

Revitalizing the waterfront

On Clover Island, we completed the Clover Island Yacht Club and professional office building and installed the island's first public artwork. City of Kennewick funding helped us extend and landscape a sidewalk and make safety improvements from Washington Street to the Sacagawea Heritage Trail. We built a gateway at the island's entrance. Construction began on a lighthouse and public plaza.

We'll add a shade structure and art installation to the Metz Plaza this spring. And thanks to a grant from the Recreation and Conservation Office, shoreline restoration efforts and sidewalk extension along the causeway will begin this fall. These improvements will attract additional dollars, jobs and development to the island.

The port has acquired half of the parcels along the north side of Columbia Drive as a long-term community revitalization strategy. We've removed vacant mobile homes from Willows Trailer Park, and the remaining tenants are relocating their trailers. We also sought public input on a conceptual plan for the 28-acre area between "cable and causeway." The port views its investment as a catalyst to transform that area into a mixed-use development with retail, commercial and tourism-related businesses.

However, the port cannot do it alone. To ensure a realistic urban renewal process, we need Kennewick to incorporate our concepts, as well as the appropriate zoning and regulatory tools into their "Bridge to Bridge, River to Railroad" master plan. And we will need financial support from our economic development partners and investment by private businesses to create a truly vital destination waterfront.

Diversifying the economy

The port has been working to bring new jobs and businesses to the district. At the port's West Richland Wine Estates Park, we welcomed the Pacific Rim Winemakers expansion to accommodate Ascentia Wine Estates -- a California company whose brands include Covey Run and Columbia Winery. We also sold land to the Black Heron Spirits Distillery and Port Works.

At Spaulding Business Park, we sold land to Tri-Cities Chaplaincy for a future administrative office building; The Arc of Tri-Cities broke ground on a building to serve developmentally disabled adults; and the port and Richland began road and utility improvements to Georgia Avenue to better serve this growing professional and commercial neighborhood.

Strategic planning

Finally, after completing a flurry of construction activities, the port will undertake additional steps for planning. In the coming year, we will evaluate our property portfolio, identify needs and begin the process necessary to ensure we have a clearly defined roadmap for future projects.

An EDA grant will allow us to master plan a 92-acre parcel at the base of Red Mountain, investigating the feasibility and infrastructure necessary to further support Washington's wine industry. Planning will be done for Plaza South, a mixed-use development on Clover Island. And the port will update its Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements, identifying and prioritizing capital improvement projects within our district.

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