RICHLAND -- Imagine a new Richland City Hall in place of the fire station on George Washington Way, and a Whole Foods grocery store where city hall now stands.
Picture the Red Lion Hanford House torn down to make way for a new hotel and conference center and a performing arts center, with a swath of open space between them for access to the Columbia River.
These are just a couple of the options that have been presented to the Richland City Council and the city's Planning Commission for redevelopment of the area along Swift Boulevard and George Washington Way.
Any of them could radically alter the way central Richland looks and functions.
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Council members face a challenging decision as they start to consider a master plan for what is being described as the "Swift corridor" -- what do they want the city's downtown to look like in five, 10 or 20 years?
The options presented by a team of architects and developers at a council workshop this week focused on more dense, urban-style development that would bring taller buildings, wider sidewalks and tree-lined streets, while also reducing some of what they identified as a glut of surface parking in central Richland.
But urban doesn't necessarily mean more steel and concrete. The team of consultants also looked for opportunities to better connect the city's core with Howard Amon Park and the Columbia River.
"One of the first things we saw when we first came to the community is your downtown is just a walk away from the water," said Walt W. Niehoff Jr., a partner in LMN Architects from Seattle.
One goal of redeveloping the area would include building on the base of medical and government employment already in the area, with city offices, the federal building and Kadlec Regional Medical Center all within a few blocks of each other.
And one way to do that would be to add not only more office space, but also things that would attract people to want to work downtown -- shops and restaurants within walking distance, for example.
The consultants saw bringing in a grocery store -- the kind of place with a deli where people could walk and pick up lunch -- as a cornerstone for creating an attractive neighborhood.
Planning Commission Chairman Kent Madsen balked at whether a grocery store, especially one aimed at an upscale clientele, could succeed in that area. He suggested south Richland might be a better place for something like a Whole Foods, although that name was brought in only as a hypothetical.
"If you go outside (downtown), you are going to find incomes much lower than south Richland," Madsen said.
But P.J. Santos, a developer with Seattle-based Lorax Partners, said the team of consultants had talked with a grocery store chain about the area and the company liked what it saw.
Councilman Ed Revell said he also had hesitations about a grocery store -- unless it was a Trader Joe's.
"If it was a Trader Joe's, I think it would be a different ball game," Revell said.
No action was taken Tuesday. It will take some time before a plan is brought to the council for a decision.
Joe Schiessl, the city's planning and redevelopment manager, said he'd work more on the plan before bringing it back to the council for more comments.