West Richland has seen substantial residential growth in recent years but very little in the way of jobs.
"Our residents have the highest average income of any of the four cities but a good portion of their money is spent outside of West Richland," Ruth Swain, the city's economic development director, told the city council at a Monday workshop. "For a healthy city, economic development is essential."
Swain said it is vital to involve the community as the city moves forward with the second phase of the Van Giesen Street redevelopment effort.
First steps include attracting more businesses plus improving the facades of existing buildings lining the main street in and out of the city.
Benton REA has pledged grant money to help with building improvements, and grant money already is in hand to purchase and install new lighting and landscaping at the bridge leading into West Richland, Swain said.
"We can't tackle the whole street at once, but we can beautify our gateways right now," she said.
Council members also are looking to get more input from residents on what they want their city to look like, what services and retail stores they would be interested in visiting and where they want their dollars spent.
"We want to identify businesses and industries, development that fits West Richland and the people who live here," said Mayor Donna Noski. "And for that we need to engage the community."
Also Monday, the council heard a presentation for a proposed White Bluffs Textile Museum to be built in the Flat Top Park area by White Bluffs Regional Center for Quilting & Fiber Arts.
Architect Harvey Prickett of Wave Architect of Richland showed floor plans and artist's drawings of the proposed museum, which also could double as a civic center for the city.
The building would include a gift shop, meeting rooms, kitchen and a grand gallery with 20-foot ceilings for displaying quilts and other fiber arts. The new building would give the group the room it needs to act as curators for old and valuable fiber art.
In 2009, the council approved a 2 1/2-acre tract of city-owned land adjacent to Flat Top Park as the site for the new museum.
The White Bluffs board plans to break ground in 2012, and to pursue a variety of grants this year.
In order to do that, it needs a lease with the exact site of the proposed museum, Prickett said. The deadline for the first grant application is April 1.
Council members discussed whether the 2 1/2-acre area is the best site.
"We have to consider the best use of that land not just now but 10 years from now," said Councilman Merle Johnson. He suggested a site inside the park may be a better choice.
Prickett and May Hayes, a member of the White Bluffs board, said they are working with the city's parks department to find the best site and if their plans still are flexible. In the meantime, Noski said the next step is for the city to draft a lease for the property.
"Kudos go to the White Bluffs members for offering to bring such an asset to the city," she said. "It's an example of economic development at its finest. It can only benefit West Richland to have a museum in the city."
-- More information on the Van Giesen Street project is at westrichland.org.