Bridge-to-Bridge plan has no support

KENNEWICK — A plan to revitalize Kennewick's Bridge-to-Bridge area along Columbia Drive into a retail-driven pedestrian streetscape, with residential areas mixed in, needs more work before it will pass scrutiny of the city council.

The proposed makeover that had been unanimously recommended by the planning commission didn't find any support during the council's workshop session Tuesday night.

"Who cooked this up? Somebody from over in Seattle or Bellevue?" asked Councilman Bob Parks.

"I don't want to see any parking garages next to the river," commented Councilman Don Britain after hearing Community Planning Manager Greg McCormick's overview of the long-term bridge-to-bridge subarea plan.

The city council hired Tom Beckwith of Beckwith Associates from Bellevue to develop a revitalization plan for the river frontage properties between the blue and cable bridges. The final proposal emerged after a half-dozen community meetings were held with property owners in the subarea. Public comments also were received though several community surveys conducted during the past year.

The final concept that emerged envisions having the old commercial strip on Columbia Drive from Highway 397 to Fruitland Drive turned into a chic mixed-use neighborhood featuring multi-story buildings with retail at ground level and residential and business/office use on upper levels. Off-street parking would be hidden on parking decks incorporated in storefront buildings and be accessible from the back or side streets.

Council members sided with the Port of Kennewick, which opposed the proposed parking structure idea, and in making all street level property exclusively for retail.

Councilman Bob Olson also objected to the long-term goal of pedestrian-friendly retail-only use on Columbia Drive east of Fruitland Drive.

"What about the existing businesses, and the two car lots?" said Olson, who owns property in the area that would be affected.

Losing two car lots would see millions of dollars in sales go away, he said.

"I wonder if we may not be getting a little heavy-handed here," Olson said.

Olson also griped that he and other property owners didn't have any courtesy notification about the planning commission or council workshop on the Bridge-to-Bridge discussion.

Councilman John Hubbard expressed concerns that the city and port did not agree, insisting that "the port and city have to come together on this."

"I also am hesitant to go forward without one of our partners," added Councilman Britain.

Sharon Brown, mayor pro tem, said she "had a real problem" with the proposal, too.

"From what I'm hearing tonight we aren't in favor of this. It's a tough one. We have a lot of work to do yet," said Mayor Steve Young, who told planning staff to find middle ground that would address the council's concerns.