Our Voice: Old idea gets new legs with developers' purchase

March 3, 2013 

Ten years ago, the Bridge-to-Bridge, River-to-Railroad plan was drafted as a way to promote development along the Columbia River between the cable and blue bridges.

The idea has been kicking around for a long time.

Now, there is some obvious movement at that end of town.

The Port of Kennewick has been clearing and developing the area adjacent to Clover Island and now private developers have purchased major chunk of land near that footprint

They hope to bring high-end hotels, restaurants, shops, condominiums and wineries to the area.

It doesn't take much for us to imagine a summer evening of biking over to Clover Island for dinner and strolling along the river. Maybe we would stop for coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy the shops.

Unless, of course, you live in one of the condominiums above the shops. Then you'd just wander downstairs and go for a little stroll every evening.

It sounds like a nice way to spend a day and one that we have reason to believe many Tri-Citians could get behind.

A few years back, we launched a little project of our own that included hopes and suggestions for the whole Mid-Columbia. Remember our 2020 Vision?

It was aimed at letting you tell us what you thought our community should look like in the year 2020.

We launched it in 2009 and we visited a different coffee shop every month that year. The chats were open to whoever wanted to come. We spent a lot of time listening to our neighbors -- you.

It was a good year.

We also ran a survey that invited people to comment on different features of our community: economic development, tourism, recreational and cultural events, and education.

Those responding to our little study ranked several issues concerning riverfront development as "very important" -- retaining open spaces along the river, developing a spectacular venue to draw big-name entertainment, encouraging retail and guest services and including public docks for people to access restaurants and shopping by boat.

One of the participants wrote, "Good, well thought-out economic, entertainment and social development along the riverfront in a concentrated area (think San Antonio's Riverwalk, ...) is vital to creating a vibrant 'go to' area for people in Eastern Washington and Oregon as well as western Idaho."

Another respondent asked, "Why don't we have a thriving waterfront with retail stores, hotels, restaurants and activities (amusement park/aquarium)?"

If you're wondering, the idea for a gondola ride over the Columbia River ranked dead last -- but it did still get some votes -- right next to a water taxi proposal.

The plan by the new owners for the 22 acres between the blue bridge and Clover Island fit nicely with the Port of Kennewick's vision of that area, the city of Kennewick's plan and the general consensus of our readers.

We're encouraged to see private industry taking the lead on the project. We like private-public partnerships because they often accomplish more than either could on its own.

The river that runs through our community does not divide us; it pulls us together.

We're interested to see what will happen next down there.

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