Wine center a half step closer

Tri-City HeraldOctober 22, 2013 

port of kennewick wine center columbia gardens wine village the

Port of Kennewick Executive Director Tim Arntzen stands with schematics for the port’s proposed developments along Columbia Drive. Behind him are models of Columbia Gardens Wine Village, left, and The Willows, right, with a more detailed model of the possible architectural style of The Willows on the table in front of him.

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

— A boutique wine village proposed for east Kennewick is a half step closer to opening by 2015, after a joint agreement was considered Tuesday at separate meetings of the Port of Kennewick Commission and Kennewick City Council.

“It’s time to stop talking and get the shovels ready,” said port commission Chairman Skip Novakovich.

The port commission voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to approve an agreement with the city of Kennewick for the project, allowing staff to begin detailed planning and budget for it for 2014.

But the city council voted to delay a decision two weeks to learn more about the project. Several council members said they liked what they were hearing, but needed some questions answered.

The agreement between the two local governments will be considered by the council Nov. 5 and a decision must be made then, said Mayor Steve Young. Councilman Paul Parish proposed the postponement, saying he favored the project but needed more facts and figures, particularly about the $800,000 the city could spend on a pretreatment plant for the waste from the wineries that would be recruited for the village.

Questions also were asked about the stand of the city’s Blue Ribbon Committee, which is looking at priorities for spending on capital projects for the city during the next 20 years.

City staff can have more information available on the waste pretreatment plant in two weeks, including answers about the city’s return on investment, said city manager Marie Mosley. It also will be able to present information on the project at a meeting of the Blue Ribbon Committee by Nov. 5, she said. After the joint agreement is signed, memorandums of understanding will need to be created and signed by the two governments to provide more details on the project.

Since 2008, the Port of Kennewick has been buying up property along the north side of East Columbia Drive. Early this year, it had land in a corridor from the cable bridge to the Clover Island causeway.

The land would be used to reshape use of Kennewick’s waterfront on the Columbia River, a project the city and port have discussed for years. The development also is planned to draw businesses and visitors to an older part of Kennewick.

The port wants to revamp the property along East Columbia Drive in several phases, beginning with the Columbia Gardens wine business park with at least four wineries and related amenities.

“Wineries have shown interest in facility development in the project area because of its central location, access and exposure,” the agreement states. While wine would be at the center of development, that’s just the start, said Tim Arntzen, the port’s executive director. Supporters envision development that could include restaurants, shops to browse and possibly space for artists to work and show their art.

In a later phase, the Willow Wine Village could be added on Clover Island Drive, providing a mix of restaurants and ground-floor retail with residential living above and space for startup wineries.

At the other end of the development near the cable bridge, the former location of a miniature golf course, industrial space would be available for wineries. Under the city and port agreement, the port would spend $1 million to $1.3 million on building improvements and potential new construction.

Kennewick would spend no more than $800,000 on a wine effluent pretreatment plant and invest up to $500,000 on redevelopment efforts, including extending the existing nature trail and paving parking lots.

The two governments will provide staff for the projects and work together to find grant funding, according to the joint agreement.

Part of the Columbia Gardens business park could open within two years.

It would have wineries, tasting rooms, offices, a demonstration vineyard, an education center and the winery waste pretreatment plant to remove seeds and stems. With some additional pretreatment the remaining liquid might be used for irrigation or could be sent to the Kennewick wastewater treatment plant.

The port would retrofit the building at 421 E. Columbia Drive for wine-related activities such as production and sales or other retail outlets like a farmer’s market. A new building of more than 7,500 square feet would be built nearby.

Part of the building at 211 E. Columbia Drive is being considered for the pretreatment plant, and Barb Carter, a consultant to the port, said the rest of the space could be considered for an “artisan incubator.”

The Tri-Cities needs studio space to develop an arts community that can grow and deliver pieces on a large enough scale to be meaningful and memorable public art, she said. Local artists are looking for studio spaces that can be used for large art pieces and also need space to exhibit their work, she said.

The extra space at 211 E. Columbia Drive could be divided into large and small work spaces, a classroom and a front gallery to display work, she said. She envisions visitors, sipping from glasses of wine, touring the studios and watching artists at work.

It would set the Kennewick wine village apart from others in the region and give visitors a reason beyond wine and food to come to it, she said.

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