Richland buys undeveloped land back from ConAgra

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldApril 4, 2013 

A swath of land next to the Shilo Inn at Columbia Point is back in Richland's hands about three years after the city sold it to ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston.

The company once intended to construct an office building at the site, but those plans eventually changed.

Richland had negotiated the right to buy back the land for the 2010 sale price of about $1.43 million if development didn't happen, according to city documents.

The repurchase closed this week.

City officials now will work to determine what kind of development should happen on the 8.63 acres, said Gary Ballew, Richland's economic development manager.

A request for proposals could go out in the late summer.

Columbia Point was zoned for industrial uses decades ago. But redevelopment efforts eventually brought hotels, the Columbia Point Golf Course, stores and office buildings. Ballew said staff and the city council "will be working to have something special" on the property.

Mayor John Fox said he expects the city council to discuss in the coming months how the property should develop. "It's important we have something that fits with (the vision for the area)," he told the Herald.

The city could make back the money it spent on the buyback with funds from another land transaction later this year. ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston is in the process of buying 80 acres from the city in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park. A ConAgra spokeswoman said the land is for future development of a warehouse facility.

At one point, the city and ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston were set to exchange the two properties, since they're of roughly equal value. The city council signed off in November 2011. But the agreement contained the provision that the city would buy back the Columbia Point land by April 1 of this year if the swap for the Horn Rapids site didn't happen in 2012, according to city documents.

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