The reunion of Kennewick’s East Columbia Drive and the Columbia River starts May 9.
The Port of Kennewick breaks ground at 11 a.m. on the Columbia Gardens Urban Wine & Artisan Village, its long-planned urban wine village, at 421 E. Columbia Drive. The $3 million project will use tasting rooms to lure visitors to an industrial stretch of Columbia Drive driven by many but visited by few.
In time, port officials hope the pioneering wineries will spark related development in the neighborhood.
“The wineries will come in and do light industrial manufacturing. But it’s the type of production that will draw visitors,” said Tana Bader Inglima, the port’s deputy chief executive.
The first phase brings utilities to the six-acre site, which fronts gritty Columbia Drive to the south and Duffy’s Pond to the north. The pond sits on the upland side of the Columbia River levy and is crossed by walking and biking trails.
In the second phase, the city of Kennewick will add sidewalks, landscaping, trees and a system to manage the acidity of winery effluent to prevent it from affecting its waste water treatment system.
In the final phase, the port will construct three buildings it intends to lease to area wineries for tasting rooms.
The port calculates that wineries have the potential to bridge Columbia Drive’s gritty industrial nature with its prime waterfront location.
The project suffered a setback in January when bids came in about $1 million higher than expected, the result of a robust construction market and an unusual design that contractors considered too risky.
Larry Peterson, director of planning and development, said the port’s initial design called for insulated concrete walls and concrete roof trusses, energy-saving systems that are common in the Napa Valley wine industry. The design was meant to help Kennewick’s tenants market themselves as sustainable businesses to visitors from the west side.
“Seattle wine customers want to know everything, from wine to table. This would have been an operational advantage and a marketing advantage,” Peterson said.
The approach was unfamiliar to local contractors and drove costs above budget.
The port rejected the initial bids and directed its Tri-City architect Terence Thornhill to revisit the wall and roof systems.
The new design replaces concrete walls and trusses with cinder block and steel. It won’t affect the project’s appearance, but shaves about $850,000 off the cost estimates while preserving most of the energy savings.
“We didn’t lower the bar to the simplest building possible,” Peterson said.
The port will solicit new construction bids in August, and expects the buildings to be ready for tenants in April.
The port wants to lease to established regional wineries willing to take a leap of faith on a new setting. Columbia Gardens isn’t an incubator for newcomers.
“There are 800 wineries in the state of Washington. It is not the Port of Kennewick’s goal to make sure there are 803 wineries through this project,” Peterson said.
The Port of Kennewick began amassing real estate for its riverfront redevelopment program in 2007 when it acquired the former Willows Trailer Park on Clover Island Drive. It secured the former Cable Greens near the Cable Green, a former automotive building and other properties. It controls 16 of 28 acres along the stretch.
The 6.7-acre Willows site, now cleared of homes, is set for mixed use development and the 3.2-acre Cable Greens site also is available to support its river-oriented vision. In the long term, it hopes the wine village development will spark private development.
“We don’t have to own it all. We think we can start tipping the neighborhood,” Bader Inglima said.