Framework for Kennewick’s Vista Field redevelopment released for public comment

Small city blocks and meandering streets are among the suggestions for how to make Kennewick’s redeveloped Vista Field into a walkable, vibrant community for the arts, businesses and homes.

The draft plan, released Friday and available to read online, was created by consultants Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. out of input from more than 200 Tri-Citians during a week-long interactive planning workshop in the fall of 2014.

The report is meant as a framework for the master planning effort for the former airport. Port of Kennewick officials seek input from Tri-Citians on what elements should be kept and what changes should be made before the master plan is finalized.

A performing arts center is envisioned as a possible catalyst to get the redevelopment project going. A first-phase facility is proposed where the former fixed-base operator building is now, about 400 feet from the new SpringHill Suites by Marriott, which connects to the Three Rivers Convention Center.

The consultants have suggested reusing materials from existing hangar buildings to lower the cost of the performing arts center. Those hangars likely would need to be removed anyway, officials say.

The center could include three performance spaces, with one outdoors. A number of locations are possible.

The larger city blocks in the Vista Field area work for large box stores, but not for a walkable civic and entertainment district, the consultants wrote.

City blocks about 200 by 300 feet seem to be the magical size for walkability, said Larry Peterson, the port's director of planning and development. That means walking the block is no more than a quarter mile, which most pedestrians can do in around five minutes and so don’t perceive as too far.

A main street would run through Vista Field from the southwest corner to the northeast corner. There also would be a secondary street meant mostly for pedestrians with some vehicle traffic. The two streets would meander and weave around one another through the development and would connect a chain of parks and open space.

Seattle is building a low-speed, pedestrian-friendly secondary street similar to that proposed for Vista Field. The design is called a “ woonerf,” and will be seen on Eighth and 12th avenues.

The path of the streets is meant to slow cars down and give people views of the development instead of being able to look down a straight street, Peterson said.

Commercial and civic development would be focused in the northeast and southeast ends of the former airport and in the center near the Three Rivers Entertainment District.

The southwest corner of Vista Field could feature commercial buildings facing a central green. Suggested amenities include a grocery store. That would give way to a mix of commercial, residential and civic buildings, including the first-phase performing arts center.

Some of the residential options in the development could be courtyard houses. Residences also could be located on the upper stories of mixed-use buildings, with the bottom stories sporting retail shops, offices or restaurants.

A market street could connect to Grandridge Boulevard and a central green. The market would be the beginning of a street that would connect to Ben Franklin Transit’s Three Rivers Transit Center at Okanogan Place and an existing road through the Benton County Justice Center.

The central green near a proposed market street also could feature music events, festivals, sports and other activities. A key shopping area would include restaurants, shops and galleries. There could be a civic building closer to the existing industrial area.

Reusing the runway and overhead utilities were suggested by architect Andrés Duany and his team to save costs. Tearing out the runway would make starting the redevelopment project more expensive. Overhead power lines could be hidden in alleys in a decorative pole system, which is less expensive and easier to maintain than an underground system, according to the report.

Parking in the development would be screened from view by buildings. A large parking lot is included near Lawrence Scott Park, where a final performing arts center as part of a small street of commercial buildings is suggested. A major plaza could be part of the performing arts center.

Duany said previously that the location for the final performing arts center would provide a magnet at the other side of the Vista Field development.

A circular bus route through the development is suggested. That bus would connect to the transit center.

The consultants also suggested considering a shuttle service so convention-goers can conveniently travel to regional destinations, such as the area’s downtowns and the Columbia River.

Michael Mehaffy, a project manager with Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., will give presentations on the report to the Vista Vision Task Force and the Port of Kennewick commission.

The task force meeting is 2 p.m. Monday at the Tri-Cities Business & Visitor Center. The port commission meeting is 2 p.m. Tuesday at port offices on Clover Island. Both meetings are open to the public.