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Snowpocalypse slows Columbia Gardens wine village

A worker helps guide a metal roof truss into place at the Port of Kennewick’s Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village on east Columbia Drive in Kennewick. Construction is about 30 days behind schedule because of harsh winter weather in January and February.
A worker helps guide a metal roof truss into place at the Port of Kennewick’s Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village on east Columbia Drive in Kennewick. Construction is about 30 days behind schedule because of harsh winter weather in January and February. Tri-City Herald

Kennewick’s Columbia Gardens Urban Wine & Artisan Village will open behind schedule after harsh weather slowed construction in January and February.

The Port of Kennewick said it expects to open the village to its two winery tenants in late August. While the port and its contractor work to finish the buildings, the project will get a welcome shot of money when Benton County formally awards $2.2 million on Tuesday.

The late August opening will be too late for Bartholomew Winery and Palencia Winery to produce wine in tandem with the 2017 harvest, though both say they’re committed to moving in.

“It’s caused quite a bit of angst,” said winemaker Bart Fawbush, who remains committed to moving his Seattle-based Bartholomew Winery to Kennewick. Fawbush is bullish on Columbia Gardens and the warm welcome he’s received from the Mid-Columbia.

He’d move now if the building was ready, he said.

Fawbush originally planned to handle harvest production in Kennewick. But he would have had to be in the building by early August to begin harvest production by early September. The construction delay forced him to extend his lease on the Seattle facility where he makes wine.

The delay will be costly, but he’s philosophical.

“Mother Nature just got in the way,” he said.

Tana Bader Inglima, the port’s deputy director, said contractors did what they could to work around the subfreezing temperatures, including fabricating trusses and other sections off-site at a warehouse. But that wasn’t enough to keep it on schedule.

The port selected Bartholomew and Palencia as tenants for the economic development project in December.

The project consists of two winery spaces, as well as a barrel storage building. The concrete block buildings are forming in the 400 block of East Columbia Drive near the cable bridge under the direction of the Kennewick based contractor, Banlin Construction.

Custom trusses were placed this week and offer a glimpse of what visitors will see when the project opens. The design features soaring ceilings and exposed trusses.

“It’s starting to be real,” Bader Inglima said.

Columbia Gardens is the first phase of an urban redevelopment the port, in partnership with the city of Kennewick, hopes will catalyze river-oriented development along a industrial stretch of Columbia Drive.

Two businesses have opened nearby, drawn in part by the prospect of well-heeled winery visitors calling on the neighborhood.

ET Estate Sales cited Columbia Gardens for its move from Richland. And Rustica Interiors, an antiques, gifts and accessories, is a more recent addition.

Owner Mayra Nino said she was looking for a brick-and-mortar location for her online business. She liked the space at 428 E. Columbia and says the wine village taking shape across thee street will be a compatible neighbor.

On Tuesday, Benton County will announce plans to give $2.2 million from its Rural Capital Fund for support infrastructure and construction costs.

The fund is fueled by Washington’s 0.09 percent sales tax rebate to local governments to support economic development. The county will formally announce the investment at a public event at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, at 301 E. Columbia Drive.

The county allocates the rural development money with cities and port to support economic development initiatives.

Both the city of Kennewick and the port wanted the money — $1.1 million apiece — dedicated to Columbia Gardens. The total will be split evenly between the wine village and the next phase, Columbia Basin College’s proposed culinary arts center, dubbed the “Willows.”

CBC wants to build a 20,000-square-foot culinary school next to Duffy’s Pond and has given itself four years to raise $10 million.

The city embraced CBC’s first major foray into Kennewick in October when it indicated it would use its share of the rural development money to support construction of utilities and a road.

While the wine village is quickly taking shape, the culinary center is a longer-term project given the challenge of raising that much money. CBC has not disclosed any gifts and said it is developing a fundraising plan to guide the capital campaign.

That isn’t stopping Benton County from pressing ahead with its financial commitment. Adam Fyall, sustainable development manager, said the rural development fund reimburses local government for actual expenses incurred after the agreement is signed.

“We’re not going to be paying for something that’s not under construction,” he said.

The 0.09 rural development program generates about $300,000 in sales tax revenue for Benton County each month. The tax ends in 2026.

Last summer, the county reached agreement with the cities and two ports in its jurisdiction to split the millions that had accumulated in the fund.

The county previously dedicated revenue to paying off debt for the Benton County jail. In 2016, it concluded it had saved enough money and opted to split the money with local jurisdictions to fund projects that support jobs and business.

Money is allocated based on population. Benton City intends to use its share to upgrade a sewer lift station that will allow it to attract commercial development on the south side of Interstate 82.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell

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