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Arts Center Task Force stakes a claim in the heart of Vista Field

Arts Center Task Force, a Richland nonprofit, is asking the Port of Kennewick to reserve a 2.2-acre site at the center of Vista Field for its future home. The Vista Arts Center could anchor the port’s plan for an urban village at the 100-plus-acre former air field.
Arts Center Task Force, a Richland nonprofit, is asking the Port of Kennewick to reserve a 2.2-acre site at the center of Vista Field for its future home. The Vista Arts Center could anchor the port’s plan for an urban village at the 100-plus-acre former air field. Tri-City Herald file

A Richland nonprofit is staking a claim to a 2.2-acre parcel at the heart of the Vista Field redevelopment in Kennewick for a future performance venue.

The Arts Center Task Force formally submitted a letter of intent to the Port of Kennewick outlining terms for the deal, which would put a performing arts center and incubator at the center of an urban village planned at the former municipal airfield in the center of Kennewick.

The port commission will consider and possibly act on the request when it meets at 2 p.m., Tuesday at 350 Clover Island Drive in Kennewick.

The terms offered by the Arts Center were not immediately available, but its letter also includes a dozen conditions under which the transfer will go through.

The “economic returns” of a performing arts center would “completely offset” forgoing a market-rate sale, according to a draft economic impact report by ECONorthwest, commissioned by the city’s Vista consultant and posted to the arts task force website.

If the port and arts center come to agreement, the performing arts venue will anchor the port’s plans to transform the former municipal airport into a mixed-use neighborhood with retail, residential and businesses. The same ECONorthwest report said the approach will generate more property taxes than using it for commercial/industrial development.

The port closed the airport at the end of 2013 and painted giant “x”s across the pavement to alert pilots not to land.

After years of community meetings, the port is developing initial plans to convert its 100-plus acres into 1,200 residences, 311,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 500,000 square feet of office space, roughly 200,000 square feet of miscellaneous other space and 8.5 acres of park space.

1,200 residences

311,000 square feet retail and restaurant space

500,000 square feet of office space

200,000 square feet of miscellaneous other space

8.5 acres of park space

$410M building construction

$50M infrastructure

The redevelopment could generate 3,380 jobs and spark $460 million in private sector investment in infrastructure and buildings, adding more than $400 million to local tax rolls.

If it existed today, the development would yield about $4.5 million in property taxes, based on the 2017 property tax rate of $11.33 levied in much of Kennewick.

The Arts Center Task Force, a Richland-based nonprofit, wants to construct a mid-sized performance center at Vista Field.

Its plan is separate from the Kennewick Public Utility District’s effort to build a Broadway-style performing arts center at the Three Rivers Convention Center, which faces Vista Field. Voters rejected a sales tax measure that would have funded the $35 million expansion in the Aug. 2, 2016, primary.

The Vista Arts Center would be financed with private donations and grants. Elements include an 800-seat theater, event space, an art gallery and educational space, a catering kitchen and beverage service.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell

The Vista Arts Center would boast an 800-seat theater, event space, an art gallery and education space, and a catering kitchen.

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