As the Tri-Cities Airport prepares to debut its newly expanded terminal this month, the city of Pasco is getting serious about using a sliver of nearby land to create a welcoming gateway at the airport’s entrance.
The 5.5-acre strip along North 20th Avenue sits across from Columbia Basin College and backs up to the college’s fast-rising student housing project to the east.
Already, there are two existing hotels to the south — the Red Lion Hotel Pasco and the Best Western Plus Pasco Inn & Suites.
City officials see a growing opportunity to cement the airport’s entrance as a hospitality zone.
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It has hired a Seattle designer with experience working on public projects in Pasco to sketch out plans for additional hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and more along 20th.
“If we have a hospitality area in Pasco, that would be it,” said Rick White, the city’s economic and community development director.
If we have a hospitality area in Pasco, that would be it.
Rick White, Pasco economic and community development director
If the city succeeds in wooing one or more hotel developers to North 20th, it will add to the Mid-Columbia’s growing hotel sector and would add welcome jobs and taxable property to the city.
The Tri-Cities boast a collective 3,989 hotel rooms after the most recent openings. Another 220 rooms are in development, including the Home2 Suites at Queensgate and The Lodge at Columbia Point, according to Visit Tri-Cities figures.
Pasco’s push to develop now could prove prescient for a rising neighborhood that’s already attracting significant investment.
On Jan. 27, the Port of Pasco will pull the wraps off a $42 million project that is nearly doubling the size of the airport terminal to 110,000 square feet with public tours.
East of 20th Avenue, a contractor is building the $7 million first phase of a project to eventually house more than 400 Columbia Basin College students, a first for the school.
CBC enlisted a development partner to build the project on land bought from the city for about $800,000. Sigma Financial Group I L.P. is a Tri-City group that formed to build CBC’s first student residences.
It broke ground in September and will open the first phase this fall. That will put about 125 students on the property. Those, coupled with the residents of the Village at Sun Willows at the nearby golf course, add up to a neighborhood with a lucrative mix schools, businesses and residents.
White said CBC sparked the city’s interest in creating a retail-oriented plan for the airport gateway district when it pushed for student housing.
220 under development
While CBC and Sigma got cracking on its project, the city took a good look at the land it retained.
“CBC’s interest forced us to get busy,” White said.
Both White and his boss, City Manager Dave Zabell, say the gateway plan will be a welcoming zone for people arriving to the city by air. That includes friendly architecture for the buildings and welcoming amenities along the street, such as landscaping and decorative light standards.
Pasco need not suffer the fate of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and other cities where travel-related investment leads to often unsightly “airport strips.”
“Since we own the property, we can control how it looks,” White said.
Zabell notes that 5.5 acres isn’t a large amount of land, but he’s eager to see development within about two years.
The gateway development site is being marketed to prospective hotel and restaurant developers. The city would likely sell the parcels to developers who agreed to build according to the vision.