After more than a decade of planning and preparation, efforts to revitalize Columbia Drive and reclaim Kennewick's historic waterfront are taking a leap forward.
The Port of Kennewick agreed Tuesday to hire an architect for the first buildings it hopes will transform the former site of a dilapidated motel and retail buildings into a boutique wine village to attract tourists instead of crime.
The three buildings are expected to cost about $1.8 million and will likely go out to bid this fall, said Larry Peterson, the port's planning and development director.
"It's been a vision that we've talked about for a long time and it's coming to fruition," said Port Commissioner Skip Novakovich.
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The new buildings will be part of a boutique wine village the port has dubbed Columbia Gardens.
Already, most of the Chieftain Apartments and the buildings that housed Beaver Furniture, Kennewick Auto Body, A-1 Tire and Durfee's Machine and Welding have been demolished.
Port and city of Kennewick officials hope to attract some wineries before next year's grape harvest to move into the buildings and to use the city's planned pretreatment system for winery wastewater.
On Tuesday, the port agreed to hire Pasco architect Tere Thornhill for up to $216,000 to design three winery and wine-tasting incubator buildings to replace a 1976 cinderblock building on the 400 block of East Columbia Drive.
Commissioners also approved hiring David Robison of Strategic Construction Management for up to $58,300 to manage the design process.
Port officials were told such a space for a cluster of wineries is needed.
Ken Robertson, a retired Tri-City Herald executive editor and long-time wine writer, told port commissioners that visitors tend to prefer to be able to visit a number of attractions without much travel in between.
There's ample opportunity for what the port plans to offer, said Robertson, who is helping the port promote its wine-related efforts.
"There is going to be a demand for a place to make wine and a lot of it," he said.
The Northwest wine industry has continued to grow despite the recession and there is plenty of room for more growth, Robertson said. Washington's wine grape production has doubled in seven years, and the number of wineries has climbed from 500 to more than 800.
The wastewater pre-treatment system the city plans to build is an attractive feature for wineries, because it's a significant portion of a winery's startup costs, Robertson said.
The city's system to pretreat winery wastewater before it enters the city's sewer system is planned for the 3.2 acres the port owns west of the cable bridge that used to be Cable Green's Mini Golf.
The city has budgeted about $800,000 to design and build the wine effluent treatment plant.
The system would be able to serve wineries built on the north side of Columbia Drive between the street leading to Clover Island to the cable bridge.
The pretreatment system will be in a building built by the port. The facility could handle wastewater from up to 160,000 cases of wine production each year, according to port documents.
The city also will finish most of the path around Duffy's Pond between Clover Island and Columbia Drive this fall, Peterson said.
The Army Corps of Engineers recently gave the city the go-ahead needed to build the trail. The trail and landscaping improvements also should be finished by the 2015 grape harvest.
Kennewick may spend another $500,000 in redevelopment for the landscaping and trail. The port and city are working on plans for new sidewalks, driveway approaches, landscaping, street lighting and a transit stop and shelter.
Plans for the Willows, a 6.7-acre port-owned area along Clover Island Drive that used to be a mobile home park, also include boutique wineries.
Winery tenants haven't been identified yet.
Next spring, the port will start actively marketing the rental space in the new buildings, Peterson said.
Two of the new buildings will be near Duffy's Pond, and a third will be along Columbia Drive with a road separating them. The buildings each will be about 3,200 to 3,600 square feet.
Port officials considered remodeling the cinderblock building at 421 E. Columbia Drive, but recently determined that it wouldn't fit in with what the port and city plan for Columbia Gardens.
A fourth building likely will be built on the same property, but isn't part of the initial phase.
Port officials also planned to remodel a building at 211 E. Columbia Drive, but that has taken a back seat to the new buildings.
"We have ambitious projects on the horizon," said Port President Don Barnes.
-- Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; email@example.com