The city of Kennewick and Port of Kennewick unveiled a joint plan Tuesday night to remake a portion of Columbia Drive into a wine village, the first phase possibly opening in 2015.
Though the cost to complete the project isn't known, most city and port officials, along with many others at the meeting at the Clover Island Inn, praised the plan, saying it will create jobs, support local businesses and begin a revitalization that could spill into other parts of the city.
"It looks like it's time to turn some dirt and make something happen," said Kennewick Mayor Pro Tem Don Britain.
The port and city have talked for years about revitalizing the city's waterfront. The new proposal would capitalize on the Mid-Columbia's connection to the wine industry and use property the port has been working to revitalize.
The Willows Wine Village on Clover Island Drive would have residential and retail space and serve as an incubator for start-up wineries.
Columbia Gardens on Columbia Drive would be a commercial center, housing larger wine operations.
Cable Greens, the former location of a miniature golf course, would serve as industrial space for any wineries on the property.
All three parcels would be connected by a nature trail that would wrap around neighboring Duffy's Pond and the levee that separates the pond from the Columbia River.
Gary Black of Integrated Structures Inc., who designed the schematics for the plan, said he was attracted to the revitalization project because of the amenities the downtown area offers. All of the proposal's concepts sprouted from ideas out of a local committee but still fits a niche that will benefit the city and the wine industry.
"Wineries are interested in an urban setting. Why? Because there's an economic driver," Black said.
Port commissioners voted unanimously at the meeting to have their staff work with the city to develop an interlocal agreement that will govern how the city and port will divvy up responsibilities and nail down costs.
City council members, who attended the meeting as a workshop, will take that agreement up later. Port Commissioner Skip Novakovich said the port already has $1.3 million set aside for the project.
"This isn't new. What this is, is huge," he said.
Most speakers said they were elated about the proposal, either because it demonstrated the importance of cooperation among elected officials or how it would heighten the city's profile, both for tourism and for people wanting to relocate.
"We lack cohesive recreational areas," said Tracy Lamar, a builder and contractor who works with retirees. "This provides more of an opportunity for what (retirees) are looking for."
Some raised concerns about how to pay for something with no definite price tag or that the project didn't go far enough in beautifying the rest of Columbia Drive. While otherwise positive in his remarks, Ed Frost of Kennewick worried the project may rely too much on the wine industry for success.
"I don't think there's an unlimited demand for wine and the wine industry," he said.
But optimism was the dominant sentiment at the meeting.
John David of Kennewick said he wants his three children, who are in college, to have the same opportunities here that he had when he came to town years ago.
"Everything here tonight is about that," he said.