Arts center, quality of development focus of Vista Field meeting

Advocates for a performing arts center for the Tri-Cities continued to drive home the need for such a facility during the latest public meeting on the redevelopment of Vista Field.

Roughly 75 people filled the banquet room at The Country Gentleman in west Kennewick for the Tuesday night meeting. The Port of Kennewick, which owns the closed airfield, has conducted an ongoing public process as it seeks to turn Vista Field into an urban-style core.

Arts center proponents didn’t unveil further details of what they have planned beyond a proposed 800-seat introductory facility, nor did they reveal what was laid out in a feasibility report they commissioned on the project.

Most just want to see the project approved and wanted to hear what the port’s views of the project are before moving forward.

“We wanted to see what cards you were playing before we showed ours,” said Steven Wiley, chairman of the Arts Center Task Force.

Other attendees stressed the port stick with a theme of new urbanism—a mix of commercial and residential that is geared toward walking rather than driving—that has been widely discussed as part of the redevelopment. They also want the development built to last and to have class.

“People don’t come to something that’s trashy,” one commenter said.

There was debate about who will use Vista Field, though. Some commenters said it needs to include affordable housing to attract all income classes. Others, however, said the residential properties should just be made affordable for the middle class.

The port has been working on the Vista Field project since 2013 after determining it was best to close the airfield and redevelop it.

Outside consultants, a special task force and several public meetings and forums were used to create a proposed plan for redevelopment.

Larry Peterson, the port’s planning and development director, said this meeting provided one of the last opportunities for the public to comment on the draft master plan for Vista Field before the port begins to work out the details of the project.

There have been frequent forums and meetings on the subject, said executive director Tim Arntzen, but Tuesday night’s turnout demonstrated people still have something to say.

“The worst criticism would be that you haven’t been transparent enough,” he said.