Businessman looks to redevelop Richland property in central business district

By Sara Schilling, Herald staff writerMarch 10, 2013 

A Tri-City businessman hopes to redevelop property he owns within Richland's central business district -- a plan city officials say lines up with the long-term vision of a more urban-style, walkable downtown area.

Greg Markel wants to develop three new buildings -- a restaurant with a drive-thru, a retail building and an office building -- to the south and west of the Burger King on George Washington Way.

He would tear down his existing single-story building in that area to make way for the new development.

"I want to attract as high a quality (tenant) in each of those categories as possible," Markel said of the new buildings.

His plan includes buying a relatively small parcel of city land next to his property. That land today is home to a half-acre parking lot.

The parking lot isn't heavily used, and consultants in 2011 noted it would be difficult to redevelop alone. So when Markel came to city officials about redeveloping his site, city staff talked with him about the potential of a larger project that incorporated ideas from the study, according to a recent memo from staff to the city council.

The council is expected to talk about surplusing the lot -- a step that must happen before it can be sold -- at a meeting later this month.

The consultants in 2011 focused on the Swift Boulevard corridor within the central business district, examining several sites and listing possible redevelopment options.

The study included several recommendations, big and small, that ranged from making streetscape enhancements to bringing in an organic grocer to developing a new civic campus.

Bill King, deputy city manager, said Markel's redevelopment plan "is exactly the kind of thing we were hoping to encourage (in the area). I think it's a good start."

He added the city also is trying to facilitate other projects along the Swift corridor, an area that's long been considered ripe for redevelopment and revitalization.

Mayor John Fox noted the city in recent years rezoned the central business district to encourage more mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development. Markel's idea "fits with that, as we understand it," he said, adding that the buildings would be close to the sidewalk.

"It looks attractive from that standpoint and consistent with the other plans we have for downtown," he said.

The council is expected to discuss the parking lot land issue at a meeting March 19.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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