Ideas pitched for fully developed Vista Field

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldNovember 8, 2012 

Connecting the entertainment district to Kennewick's Vista Field Airport or adding a river walk to a redeveloped area are among the ideas floated during workshops to create plans for the airport's future.

Consultants and about 10 community members met Wednesday night to review suggestions made so far for a fully developed Port of Kennewick airport and redevelopment.

Etchings of fully developed airports and redevelopment designs hung along the wall of a meeting room in the Three Rivers Convention Center.

Tom Low from the port's consultant, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., said they are looking at ways to connect the surrounding area to the airport, creating a mixed-use, walkable community.

Reconfiguring plans for expanding the entertainment district could make the area more cohesive instead of having the district turn its back on the airport, he said.

Laurence Qamar, project planner for Duany Plater-Zyberk of Portland, said one possibility is to bring a narrow public road between the airport and existing businesses, so that people could drive past the hangars and see the runway.

It also could be arranged so that the road was in between hangars and the runway, and a gate would come down so airplanes can cross the road, he said.

One drawing described as an "air town" showed businesses with hangars developed around the runway.

Tom Moak, former Kennewick mayor, asked if there is enough demand in the community for that kind of a development.

Marjy Leggett, an airport support network volunteer for Vista Field, said while it looks overwhelming on the full scale, they could develop a portion to gauge interest while saving the rest of the land.

For redevelopment, Low said they looked at extending the streets and creating blocks where buildings or community greens could be developed.

But that could be changed, to add a river walk like other cities have built, he said. That river walk even could be extended to Columbia Center mall.

The port has been struggling to find a way to revitalize the 90-acre airfield after deciding two years ago to keep the airport open in hopes of recruiting more businesses to the property.

Commissioners decided they needed another look at the options for the airport after rejecting a proposal in June from businessman Mike Shannon to be the airport's fixed-based operator. Port officials said they and Shannon were too far apart to continue negotiations.

The port then hired Duany Plater-Zyberk for a $225,000 study to do an independent review of the small airport near the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

Economic and technical consultants will check if ideas offered by the community are feasible and determine the economic benefits and return on investment for those kinds of improvement, said Michael Mehaffy, project manager for Duany Plater-Zyberk.

Nick Popenuk from consultant ECONorthwest said the airport site has a competitive edge because it is centrally located and close to an active retail area, residential, industrial and flex office space.

"Really, it could go in a lot of different directions," he said.

The question is what makes most sense for the community and market demand and risk, Popenuk said.

But consultants won't make the decision of what is the best option. Instead, they will present the information to the public, and the public can use that information and benefits that are harder to quantify to decide what they want, said Larry Peterson, the port's planning and development director.

So far, about 60 people have commented on the airport and the alternatives, Mehaffy said.

The consultant will hold another workshop today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and hold a final presentation tonight from 7 to 9 at the Three Rivers Convention Center, 7016 W. Grandridge Blvd., in Kennewick.

After the study is complete, the port intends to let taxpayers decide what they will support using an advisory vote next year.

Comments about the airport also can be sent to VistaField@PortOfKennewick.org.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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