Our Voice: Columbia Gardens progress may be the tipping point for downtown Kennewick

For years we have lamented the false starts with redevelopment along the downtown Kennewick waterfront.

Visions have been many but actions have been few.

That was until the Port of Kennewick picked up the ball a few years ago and ran with it. While some changes have been obvious to passersby, others have not. But a lot has happened and change for the better is apparent along Columbia Drive these days.

We’re excited to see that the Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village is staying right on target. Last week the port announced its first two winery tenants: Palencia Wine Co. of Walla Walla and Bartholomew Winery of Seattle.

Both are family-owned enterprises that will make Columbia Gardens their primary locations and headquarters where the city has made a significant investment in a water treatment system to neutralize wine effluent with the aim to have its resident wineries produce their product on site, adding to the experience of visitors.

The port has done a good job of beautifying Clover Island and the surrounding area. Wineries, restaurants and the waterfront trail make a great combination of activities for visitors and locals alike.

The addition of tasting rooms to the downtown corridor is just the type of draw that is needed to pull people to Kennewick. It’s kind of the tipping point — people can’t find a good excuse not to visit now. It’s all going to be there.

And the future looks even brighter. A third tenant is likely to be named soon, and this is just the first phase of construction. We’ll see more space for additional tasting rooms and restaurants down the road. And Columbia Basin College has plans for a culinary education center at the Kennewick site as well.

We envision something akin to the Port of Benton’s Vintner’s Village in Prosser but perhaps, even grander and more epicurean in scope.

The redevelopment of the Kennewick waterfront is another one of those things we said we’d believe when we saw it happening. It had been talked about and stalled so many times over the years that we’d almost given up hope.

So to have something so incredible being constructed — finally — makes us giddy. Bringing businesses like Palencia Wine Co. and Bartholomew Winery to the site is like the icing on the cake.

We can’t wait to see what happens next.