Vista Field’s future might begin with a temporary performing arts center near Kennewick’s Three Rivers Convention Center.
Using that center as the nucleus for the first phase of redevelopment is part of the draft master plan consulting firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co drew up this week for the 113-acre site based on community input.
About 70 Tri-Citians gathered Saturday to see the draft plan unveiled.
The first phase will need to be near the convention center, architect Andrés Duany said. That gives the effort a chance to tap into the pedestrian and vehicular traffic already in the area.
The temporary performing arts center could be built using materials, such as metal beams, that are part of buildings already at Vista Field, said Michael Mehaffy, a project manager for Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. One possibility for the center would feature two indoor stages and one outdoor one.
There won’t be anything mediocre about the temporary performing arts center, Duany said. Using it to build up audiences will help defeat some of the skepticism about the need for a more ambitious version.
Then, it will be easier to get the money needed to pay for the permanent performing arts center, he said.
A permanent center could be built near Lawrence Scott Park, providing a magnet at the other side of the Vista Field development, Duany said.
The idea is to create an entertainment district in cooperation with the Kennewick Public Facilities District and the city, Mehaffy said. The district would provide restaurants, cafes and nightlife that the area around the convention center lacks.
The Port of Kennewick hired Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. to develop a master plan for redeveloping the former airport. The plan must include how to finance and implement the ideas. The contract is for up to $383,000.
The draft plan does include some residential areas, with residential streets that are more picturesque and meant for pedestrians but can still be accessed by cars if need be, Mehaffy said. Alleys and parking would be at the back of the neighborhood.
The master plan will be flexible, setting the overall scheme and where the roads connecting the development to the rest of the community should be, Duany said.
However, it will leave a lot of decisions open for buyers and users, such as the kind of house they want to live in and where an indoor and outdoor market should be.
Parks and green spaces go through the center of the proposed development.
The draft plan includes reusing the runway and taxiways as streets, which officials say will save millions of dollars.
Duany also suggested overhead utilities be used, but artfully hidden in alleys. It’s drastically less expensive than putting them underground, officials said.
The redevelopment likely will take some public money in the beginning, but the return will be far greater than the initial expense, Duany said. It’s possible the port could provide a short-term loan that would be repaid.
The consultants still are crunching the numbers. However, Duany said the proposal does pencil out and should result in cash, not debt. That’s with conservative estimates, rounding up expenses and rounding down revenues.
“I’m not interested in compromising on the quality of things,” said Tim Arntzen, the port’s executive director.
Community members have been clear that they want a spectacular development, Arntzen said. But it looks like that can be accomplished with substantial savings to taxpayers.
“We don’t do show-stopper architecture,” Duany said. “We do wonderful places that people love.”
The port can’t develop Vista Field without partnering with the city of Kennewick and others, Arntzen said. He said he hopes for a similar partnership as what the city and port have for Columbia Drive redevelopment efforts.
The city would have to take action for a “pink zone” to be created at Vista Field. That’s an innovation area Duany suggested would cut through some of the red tape that bogs down development and prevents the younger generation and immigrants from getting involved.
Port officials plan to keep control over the redevelopment efforts, but might hire a master developer to give advice and help the port administer the redevelopment effort. The consultants recommended the port avoid just turning the land over to a developer. They want to get local, small developers involved.
“You don’t have to be big to get a piece of the action; you just have to do quality,” Arntzen said.
Arntzen said he already has been contacted by people who want to build at Vista Field or open a business there.
“It’s really an interesting, challenging concept, but it is doable,” he said.
The draft plan presented Saturday will be refined and returned to the port along with a full report, Mehaffy said. The goal is to have that done by the end of January.