RICHLAND -- Shielding himself from a cool morning drizzle Thursday, Richland Mayor John Fox drew a comparison between the city's core neighborhood founded in the 1940s and the one about to be built south of Badger Mountain.
Both were planned communities, but the old neighborhood -- built to support activities at Hanford -- was meant to be temporary, and that comes with a set of problems more than 60 years old.
But the new community known as Badger Mountain South -- which Fox described as a "concept for 21st century living -- is planned to last, he said.
"It is planned to be adaptable and sustainable over time," he said.
Developers and city officials Thursday broke ground on what during the next two decades will become virtually its own small city -- a community of 5,000 homes, parks, schools, 150 acres of commercial development and a wine village.
Developer Nor Am Development LLC on Thursday filed a preliminary plat application for the subdivision's first cluster of 300 homes, which contractors will start building in 2012.
And officials announced Thursday that the nearly 2,000-acre development will include a 20-acre health care campus being developed in partnership with Kadlec Regional Medical Center.
Jeff Clark, Kadlec's vice president of human resources, told the Herald after the groundbreaking that talks are in the conceptual phase, but the campus likely will include a Kadlec clinic.
Kadlec also will facilitate bringing other health care providers or facilities to the campus, but won't be buying 20 acres of land, Clark said.
"We very much like the concept of the planned community," Clark said. "We would be willing to help direct providers and share the vision for the project."
Loren Combs, the Tacoma attorney who has guided Nor Am Development through years of planning and process to build the subdivision, said bringing a health care campus to the development is all part of Nor Am's strategy of creating the kind of community where all of residents' needs are within walking distance.
"The whole idea is that people should be able to have health care integrated into their neighborhood," he told the Herald.
Larry White, managing partner and co-owner of Nor Am, said he wanted "walkable" and "sustainable" to be more than just words. He wants them to be a lifestyle that is available to everyone who chooses to live in Badger Mountain South.
"For you to be able to walk to the store, walk up this beautiful mountain and enjoy the 360-degree view -- that's a lifestyle I think people will enjoy," White said.
But Nor Am also wants it to be a lifestyle that all sorts of people can afford, and is working with Habitat for Humanity to make four lots available within the first cluster of homes where Habitat volunteers can build homes for low-income residents.
"This is a neighborhood that caters to everybody," Combs said. "It is not going to be a country club, although there also will be some more expensive homes."
Amy Jenny, vice president for Apollo Inc., said she believes Badger Mountain South reinforces that the Tri-Cities is a great place to live, work and play.
But it's the "work" part of that equation -- and the jobs the development will create during the next decade -- that excites her.
"That's not only immediate,but a long-term boost to oureconomy," she said.
Combs said the development will help keep living-wage jobs in Richland, through the long-term building projects and with the offices and shops it brings.
Because of that, he wasn't concerned the developer would have a tough time marketing homes as Hanford undergoes significant layoffs.
"I don't see uncertainty in this community," he said. "This is a strong community with a strong economy. Hanford is not the end-all, be-all of this community. ... This project will create more jobs than are laid off at Hanford."
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; email@example.com