The City of Kennewick has decided to take the plunge on partnering with the Port of Kennewick to develop a boutique wine village on Columbia Drive.
The city council voted 6-1 Tuesday to an agreement with the port for the project, which will allow staff to begin detailed planning and budgeting for 2014.
The port commission unanimously approved the agreement two weeks ago.
Kennewick Mayor Steve Young told the Herald that economic development on Columbia Drive and in the downtown is just as important for the city's future as Southridge and the Three Rivers Entertainment District.
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The only way to successfully move forward a project like the proposed Columbia Gardens is to partner with the port and the business community, Young said.
"The Tri-Cities is way behind Walla Walla and other areas when it comes to marketing wine and creating new wineries," Young said.
In addition to the chance to create a vibrant area for wineries, shopping and dining, it's an opportunity to take advantage of the Columbia River and create a family-friendly environment, he said.
Port of Kennewick Commission President Skip Novakovich told the Herald he's excited to be able to move forward with the city to create something the community has wanted for more than a decade.
"I think the community is going to see where this partnership is going to benefit them, not just today but in the long run," Novakovich said.
The Columbia Gardens phase would require the port to spend $1 million to $1.3 million on building improvements and potential new construction. The port may consider remodeling two buildings at 211 and 421 Columbia Drive to allow boutique wineries to start producing wine.
Kennewick is looking at spending no more than $800,000 on a wine effluent treatment plant and investing up to $500,000 in redevelopment efforts, like extending the existing nature trail around Duffy's Pond and paving parking lots and driveways.
Details will be worked out in subsequent agreements considered by both the council and the port commission.
Part of the reason Kennewick City Council waited on the vote on the initial agreement to move forward on Columbia Gardens was to get more information on the proposal, including economic impacts.
City documents show the city's capital costs and maintenance and operating costs could be recovered once the project is built out by charging wineries between 6 cents to 11 cents per bottle produced.
The city council also wanted to make sure that the project was among the priorities of the city's Blue Ribbon Committee, which is looking at priorities for spending on capital projects for the city during the next 20 years.
Evelyn Lusignan, the city's customer service manager, said the committee did consider partnering with the port to develop the Columbia Drive area a priority.
Kennewick City Councilman Bob Parks was the lone no vote for the agreement.
In the past six years, the port has bought about 16 of the 28 acres on the north side of Columbia Drive between the cable bridge and Clover Island Drive. Buildings have been taken down, making room for the area's future.
The port has invested about $5.2 million in capital expenses for the revitalization of Columbia Drive, according to port documents.
The port now owns three contiguous parcels along Columbia Drive, including the Willows, a 6.7-acre property; Columbia Gardens, a 5.9-acre chunk in the middle of Columbia Drive that used to be the home of Beaver Furniture and the Chieftain Apartments; and 3.2 acres just west of the cable bridge that used to be Cable Green's Mini Golf.
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-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; email@example.com