The Port of Kennewick is an economic development entity focused on growing, improving and sustaining regional employment, tourism and quality of life. One of the port’s roles in economic development can be spearheading projects the private sector is unable or unwilling to undertake on its own. As a result, the port is leading efforts to reclaim and revitalize Kennewick’s historic downtown waterfront, and redeveloping land holdings to benefit the regional economy.
Revitalizing the waterfront
On Clover Island, the port continues its efforts to bring vitality to downtown Kennewick by transforming the waterfront. The port is partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers to restore additional riparian habitat, which benefits endangered fish species, and extend the Clover Island Riverwalk from the Lighthouse Plaza along the island’s northern shoreline. The Corps should begin design work later this year, with construction anticipated in winter 2017. Also on Clover Island, the port will construct a walkway connecting the existing sidewalks on the island’s harbor side. That project includes an art installation honoring the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s historic ties to Kennewick. When finished, these projects will create six new commercial development parcels ready to accommodate private-sector buildings, businesses and jobs.
Just south of Clover Island, on Columbia Drive, the port is partnering with the City of Kennewick to redevelop an industrial waterfront neighborhood. That South of Clover Island district surrounds Duffy’s Pond between Clover Island Drive and the Cable Bridge. Last year, the partners constructed a scenic nature path along that interior waterfront that connects back to Clover Island and the regional Sacagawea Heritage Trail. And later this year, construction will begin on phase one of the Columbia Gardens Wine & Artisan Village — bringing boutique wine-production and tasting rooms to Columbia Drive and tipping the South of Clover Island neighborhood toward vibrancy.
The port will construct, and then lease, those first wine buildings; and the city will construct and manage a winery wastewater pre-treatment facility. The system allows boutique winemakers to focus on making wine instead of managing effluent — the city will do that instead. The city will also install streetscape, and the port has planned future public artworks, including a mural honoring the Latino community’s contributions to the region’s wine and agricultural industry.
The partners are discussing phase two options, including complementary culinary facilities, distilling, brewing and more. The intent is to increase downtown visitation, spending and vitality by connecting a renewed waterfront with historic residential and retail neighborhoods, and to create new opportunities for small businesses.
Creating a regional town center
Port of Kennewick is also finalizing the master plan to redevelop the former Vista Field airport in the heart of the region’s commercial center in Kennewick. The intent is to transform that 103-acre site into a vibrant, pedestrian-focused, regional town center. Redeveloping the former airfield provides an opportunity to encourage significant private-sector investment; and to build a new “town center” while generating positive returns to the regional economy.
The redevelopment plan is community-driven and focused on a pay-as-you-go approach — looking to leverage the port’s land with private equity from developers, builders and investors; creating a special, pedestrian-friendly, centrally located living, working and gathering place for citizens and future generations.
Indeed, there has been substantial interest from developers, individuals and businesses wishing to locate at a Vista Field Town Center. The Arts Center Task Force is working to establish a privately funded, 800-seat performing arts theater and gallery/assembly space as part of phase one. Their proposal is viewed as one of several exciting, catalyst projects that can add vibrancy, boost confidence and foster momentum for private-sector investment at Vista Field.
The Vista Field Redevelopment master plan is being refined regarding the street network and commercial, residential and public spaces. It is anticipated the final plan will go before port commissioners and city council for approval by summer, with phase one construction possibly starting as early as 2017.