New plan shoots for 'mixed use' development in Pasco

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldJune 8, 2014 

A new five-year plan hopes to add "mixed use" retail and residential development to downtown Pasco.

Consultant Eric Hovee of Vancouver, Wash., has been working on the plan for the Downtown Pasco Development Authority, with help from $25,000 from the city. It gives one-, three- and five-year goals for downtown.

The draft plan, unveiled to downtown business owners Wednesday, calls for expanding what is considered downtown, which now stretches between Columbia Street in the south to Bonneville Street in the north.

Expanding the boundary north toward Volunteer Park would involve more entities such as the Lourdes Health Network in downtown improvements, said Michael Goins, executive director of the development authority.

The plan, which was put together after interviewing more than 15 community leaders, business owners and media members, seeks to focus the first three years on enhancing retail in the area, before looking to attract both retail and residential development in the last two years. The mixed-use projects could either improve existing buildings or add new buildings with stores, restaurants and housing.

"That is the most successful model not only in the Northwest, but any place that's developing," Goins said.

The mixed-use development is needed to attract young professionals who work at Hanford to live downtown, Goins said.

"They are looking for a fun, urban place to be," he said.

Pasco has a leg up on getting mixed use projects, since downtown buildings are already zoned residential on the second floor, said Pasco Community and Economic Development Director Rick White, who has been working with the development authority.

"Mixed use definitely can happen right now," White said. "I think it's a question of how much effort are you willing to put in to make it a priority?"

The development authority is already working on smaller projects, like seeking sponsors for benches and other downtown enhancements, Goins said. Another first-year goal is to get accreditation with the national Main Street program, which would allow downtown businesses to get breaks on business and occupation taxes from the state.

The city is looking to recruit more restaurants downtown between the first and third year of the plan, Goins said. That has been one of the purposes of bringing back the September Fiery Foods Festival.

By the third year of the plan, the development authority would like to improve signs leading downtown and establish a "buy downtown" campaign, Goins said. It is also considering a vacant building initiative, where unused storefronts can have art spaces in their windows, or be used for seasonal businesses.

The development authority would like to bring in a river trail and streetscapes plan by the fifth year of the plan. Another long-term goal is securing a Lewis Street overpass to replace an existing underpass under railroad tracks, but that will require millions in state and federal money.

Improving Peanuts Park, where a large fountain hasn't worked for years, is something already being considered. Columbia Basin College students are looking at ways to replace the old fountain with one that shoots water out from the ground, allowing kids to play in it, Goins said.

CBC students are also helping develop a marketing plan for the farmers market, Goins said.

Downtown business owners gave feedback on the plan Thursday and Friday. They liked the goals, but were concerned about transient people downtown, Goins said.

Pasco's homeless population is similar to what is found in Kennewick or other cities, Goins said.

"Our goal is to bring people down here," he said. "The more people are down here, the fewer the transients will be."

The development authority has already been expanding its Internet presence, which the city is funding with $10,000. It provides wireless Internet to customers around the farmers market. Along with its own website, the development authority has social media pages on sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

The development authority board will have to give final approval to the plan after all feedback is collected, White said. He expects to take it before city council in July.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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