Massive makeover of Kennewick’s Vista Field is about to begin. Here’s what’s coming

The long-dormant airport at the heart of Kennewick is about to roar back to life.

The Port of Kennewick awarded a multimillion dollar contract this week to build roads and other infrastructure at the former municipal airport.

The project is the first in a series to transform the 103-acre property into an arts-oriented urban village.

Richland-based Total Site Services LLC submitted the winning bid of $4.9 million for the four-part project.

It will construct the major road network, including sidewalks, alleys and utilities, as well as road extensions and an 850-foot canal-type water feature.

The Port of Kennewick released conceptual drawings showing a canal and other water features threaded through the future Vista Field redevelopment project. Port of Kennewick

The infrastructure work will open property for development by private partners as early as next year.

Losing bidder complains

The move drew criticism from one of the losing bidders, Big D’s Construction of Tri-Cities.

The port asked would-be contractors to submit four different bids, a base, two alternatives and versions of all three.

Total Site Services submitted the lowest bid for the total project, but Big D’s submitted the lowest bid for the base project without add-ons.

The base bids were $3.5 million by Big D’s and $3.9 million by Total Site Services.

The bids for the comprehensive project were $4.9 million by Total Site Services and $5.2 million by Big D’s.

Duane Howard, president of Big D’s, asked the port commission to re-evaluate the bids, saying it was told the project would go to lowest base bid.

Howard reminded the commission Big D’s has performed work in the past and is a friend to the port, he said.

The objection drew a heated response from Lisa Chapman-Rosa, president of Total Site Services.

Chapman-Rosa said her company and its subcontractors are qualified for the work. The company worked hard to assemble a bid to deliver what the port wants — the base plus alternatives.

“We are excited to become one of the port’s new friends,” she said.

The Port of Kennewick released conceptual drawings for the future Vista Field mixed-use development Thursday. The port is borrowing the Dutch concept of a living street, or “woonerf,” for its transportation grid. Port of Kennewick

The bids were reviewed by an outside consultant who determined both contractors are eligible to perform the work. Washington state law requires public agencies to award contracts to the qualified bidder who submits the lowest price.

The port commission voted unanimously to award the project to Total Site Services.

A long wait to redevelop Vista

“This is a day we’ve been waiting for for many years,” said Chair Tom Moak, who dismissed the complaints about the bid process.

“Total Site Services sharpened their pencils just a little bit more,” he said. “That is the nature of the bidding process.”

The redevelopment of Vista Field began in late 2013 when the port closed the airport to planes. It was a growing financial burden for the rural port district.

Unlike the municipal airport in Richland or the Tri-Cities commercial airport in Pasco, Vista Field received no support from the Federal Aviation Administration.

It is targeted for redevelopment as a mixed-use commercial and residential neighborhood anchored by an 800-seat privately funded performing arts center. The Arts Center Task Force is raising money for its project.

Vista Arts Center (2)
The Arts Center Task Force will unveil conceptual designs for its Vista Art Center project on Aug. 22. Vista Arts Center will anchor the Port of Kennewick’s Vista Field redevelopment. Above, a crew paints Xs on the former runway to deter pilots from landing in the heart of the city. File Tri-City Herald

The port and the city of Kennewick signed off on the Vista Field redevelopment master plan in late 2017.

The plan lays out a picturesque Italian village with fountain plazas, a canal-lined walkway and stucco buildings that flow into shared streets, a trendy concept for corridors where cars, bicycles and pedestrians operate on equal footing.

The Dutch term is “woonerf.”

Up to 1,200 new residences

The redeveloped property will accommodate 600 single-family homes, 160 condominiums or townhomes, 440 apartment units, 311,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 500,000 square feet of office space, 8.5 acres of park, and educational, neighborhood and church space.

It is expected to inspire more than $460 million of private investment in new construction, according to port estimates.

The push to reinvest in the area has already yielded investment.

Last fall, Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant moved from the sleepy Richland end of Columbia Center Boulevard to a new $4 million building on West Rio Grande Avenue and Edison Street to be near Vista Field.

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Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.