Our Voice: We have one chance to get Vista Field's future right

April 7, 2014 

The Port of Kennewick closed Vista Field in 2013 and is working on a redevelopment plan.

COURTESY PORT OF KENNEWICK

The Port of Kennewick is wise to consult with experts before it starts slicing up the 113-acre parcel that used to be Vista Field airstrip. The port will get one chance to do this right.

Short-sighted or insufficient planning is the bane of many developments. It's close to impossible to go back and try to "fix" things later.

Vista Field is a blank canvas with a rich history. Its future has many possibilities, some of which will be better in the long run than others.

There needs to be a balance in the development. We need community input, but we also need professional advice.

Port commissioners recently hired Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. to develop a master plan for redeveloping the former airport. Gathering public input is part of the process for the Florida-based firm.

The closure of the airstrip has been a long time in coming. It's a decision that was not made quickly. There was no way to satisfy everyone with a stake in the outcome.

Deciding what will happen with that land also should be a deliberate and thoughtful process. It's likely the decisions, once again, will not be made without causing some disappointment. That's all the more reason to thoroughly plan.

There is a balance between long-awaited projects that never seem to get off the ground, like an aquatics center or a performing arts center, and a hasty construction boom -- sorry to bring it up, but Pasco's Road 68 always comes to mind on this topic.

There is no need to rush things at Vista Field. A steady and informed push toward a smart master plan will help put things in place for what could take decades to roll out.

The Tri-Cities is a growing place. Our landscape changes dramatically from census to census. Part of planning is to predict what we will look like 10 or 20 years down the road and what we will need to get there.

Another arm of the planning process is to successfully guide that growth -- it should not just happen on its own.

If you don't set a goal, you're not likely to achieve it. But setting the wrong goal or not aiming high enough is also a danger. Now is the time to avoid such pitfalls.

The opportunity to design an open space in the middle of an existing city is rare. Lots of cities grow up around a focal point -- a railroad or a river crossing. Over time, the city can develop haphazardly in fits of starting and stopping.

To have a large parcel of land that's a virtual blank slate is an opportunity that is worth the time and effort to plan right from the beginning. And it is a big chunk.

Projects are invariable limited by the size of the available. Sometimes these constrictions call for "creative" solutions that create headaches or extra costs.

This doesn't have to be the case with Vista. There is a lot of space there.

This is our community's opportunity to dream big and plan smart.

It's worth doing right.

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