This year marks the Port of Kennewick’s 100th anniversary. When the port was formed those many years ago, it was truly a game changer for the local community. That citizen vote created an economic development agency focused on protecting and enabling commerce. Over the years, the Port of Kennewick established a proven history of promoting industry, fostering jobs, building infrastructure and making investments to address evolving community needs.
Now, we are charting the future of Vista Field — working to in-fill that land and establish a walkable, bikeable, commercially robust, residentially diverse, culturally rich and sustainable regional town center. And we are fostering a renaissance of Columbia Drive’s historic waterfront — shifting from a tired industrial neighborhood to a vibrant, urban wine and artisan village.
Indeed, few other projects have the same potential to shape the future of our community as significantly as Columbia Drive and Vista Field. And I firmly believe that 2015 will prove to be one of the most important years ever.
Regional town center
Following closure of Vista Field airport, the city of Kennewick re-zoned that site to commercial regional, and a citizen committee chose Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) — an internationally acclaimed, urban design firm — to prepare the redevelopment plan. A pattern-language and charrette process was used, with nearly 300 people attending meetings and providing comments in an inclusive, citizen-driven endeavor.
DPZ will roll the community’s input into a long-term plan that transforms the 103-acre former airfield into a regional town center. During the charrette process, the community identified small-scaled city blocks with open spaces; transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods; and a mix of locally unique shops, restaurants and work spaces as critical elements. Access, connectivity, limited port resources and leveraging partnerships were identified as essential considerations for success.
Indeed, connectivity with existing public facilities and high-traffic intersections and stakeholder participation were deemed essential to realizing the redevelopment’s full potential, which could approach a half-billion dollars of economic vitality at build-out.
Those desiring a performing arts center identified an opportunity to potentially repurpose former airport hangars into a phase-one arts facility. And DPZ recommended a “Pink Zone,” where “red tape” is reduced to encourage development; city staff already are working toward that end.
DPZ will fine-tune the charrette documents and present a draft master plan to port commissioners. That draft will be shared regionally for additional public comments. Port staff will then look at necessary refinements and evaluate that plan regarding cost, feasibility and community support.
At Clover Island, we’ll install additional artwork and utilize a state grant to construct a public restroom and improve the boat ramps and parking by fall 2015. And in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, we’ll determine project requirements for restoring the island’s remaining shoreline.
On Columbia Drive, we’ll remove dilapidated buildings and then construct and lease three winery buildings. The city will extend the riverside trail, add landscaping and construct a water-treatment system to accommodate boutique wine production. The first development phase should be completed winter 2015.
The port is also partnering with the city of Richland, looking at parking lot options to relieve residential street congestion and increase access to the Friends of Badger Mountain’s newly expanded trail system. In addition, port and city staff are working to annex 92 acres of port-owned land into the city of West Richland, and preparing the former raceway for future industrial and commercial development.
While the community has prioritized redevelopment, the port cannot do it alone. We must secure partnerships and leverage funding, and we must remain vigilant to ensure that changing regulations and priorities do not hinder a chance to foster distinctive neighborhoods with a strong sense of place.
Yet, the port remains mindful that we are stewards of the public trust. We will exercise careful planning, giving diligent consideration to future projects, so that an overextension of resources and commitments does not preclude doing quality work for district taxpayers.