Architect Andrés Duany isn’t advocating something new or expensive when it comes to redeveloping Kennewick’s Vista Field.
Instead, he suggests taking a lesson from how poor immigrants originally built America before bureaucracy and red tape made 900-page environmental impact statements part of building.
The world has changed since 2008 and the Great Recession. Now, the question is, “Can we do it faster? Can we do it cheaper? Can we do it smaller?” Duany said.
This idea of lean urbanism — development that acknowledges limits — was part of the reason Duany was the featured speaker at Visit Tri-Cities annual meeting Thursday. More than 500 Tri-Citians attended the event.
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The Port of Kennewick hired his Miami firm, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., to develop a master plan for redeveloping the former airport. The plan is to include how to finance and implement the ideas.
The contract is for up to $383,000. The port and consultant will ask the public next week at a series of interactive workshops for ideas and input to help develop the plan.
Lean urbanism is what Duany came to after everything fell apart in 2008. The year before the economic crash, Duany said there was nothing his office couldn’t do.
The real estate bubble bursting revealed many underlying problems, he told the Herald on Thursday.
Climate change also is something that the general public knows about now and didn’t then, he said. It doesn’t matter whether climate change is true or not; as long as the millennials believe in it, it is a game changer, Duany said.
Millennial is a term used for those born after 1980 who came into adulthood in the 2000s.
The downsides of globalization had to be confronted, including jobs moving out of the country, Duany said. “I think it cast a pall on America,” he said.
The millennials have a mission to save the world environmentally and economically, Duany said. But they need to be able to start doing that now, and the older generation needs to help them do it.
People rationally fear change because they’ve seen things get worse, Duany said. Taxes are higher, traffic is worse and open spaces are swallowed up.
While that has to be acknowledged, there is a different generation coming, he said, and he and others are planning for them.
Kris Watkins, Visit Tri-Cities president and CEO, said she hopes the Tri-Cities can apply Duany’s ideas in ways that will help draw visitors and new business to the region.
To be successful, the Tri-Cities needs to get ahead of the curve, Watkins said.
The community needs to think bolder and brighter, as hinted at with the region’s new brand, she said.
That means keeping an open mind, thinking differently and making sure construction is affordable and will pay for itself.
The addition this year of three new hotels, the Washington State University Wine Science Center, the Gesa Carousel of Dreams and the Reach center will help grow tourism and economic development, Watkins said.
And the region has an opportunity to draw in more development because people living in more crowded, congested areas seek places with a better quality of life, she said.
Duany said his target audience is the 20- to 30-year-olds. That’s because a 25-year project like Vista Field really is for them, he said.
The younger generation doesn’t have money, which is part of why they are attracted to cool and inexpensive places, Duany said.
“This is a perfect inexpensive site,” he said.
The land isn’t expensive; it’s under single ownership and a lot of the infrastructure is in the site already, Duany said.
The port should consider preserving the runway during the redevelopment, he said.
Cuts could be made for things such as planting trees.
Planting trees to line the avenues in Vista Field would help people visualize what it could be and allow the trees to age.
Vista Field could be built in phases.
For example, it could start out with one-story buildings and later expand up to three stories, Duany said.
Duany suggests the port and city of Kennewick consider creating what he calls a “pink zone” for Vista Field.
That’s an innovation area that cuts through some of the red tape that bogs down development and prevents the younger generation and immigrants from getting involved, he said.
Duany doesn’t advise tackling the bureaucracy problem.
Instead, he told officials to consider creating a place where millennials can help with the generational transition.
That means releasing them from some of what the code would require and helping them sell their ideas to banks so they can get financing.
Supporting that kind of entrepreneurship means creating cheap space where they can incubate, Duany said.
The master plan being developed for the port will create the framework, but it will be entrepreneurs, builders, artists and creative people who put flesh on the bones, said Michael Mehaffy, a project manager for Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co.
“We have to get the bones right,” he said.