Editorials

Our Voice: New Vista Field plan shows promise, but existing campus needs help

The vision of a walkable, urban mix of residences and businesses became more real now that the Port of Kennewick and the city have signed off on the master plan for the Vista Field project. The development would be located near the Toyota Center and the Three Rivers Convention Center.
The vision of a walkable, urban mix of residences and businesses became more real now that the Port of Kennewick and the city have signed off on the master plan for the Vista Field project. The development would be located near the Toyota Center and the Three Rivers Convention Center. Tri-City Herald

The dots continue to connect for developing Vista Field, and already the image is impressive.

The vision of a walkable, urban mix of residences and businesses complete with an art district became more real when Kennewick city leaders recently signed off on the master plan for the project.

Port of Kennewick officials approved the same proposal in October, so the permit process can now get going for the first phase of construction, which should start next year.

Seeing some dirt churn in this 103-acre spread of sagebrush will be exciting, and — we hope — provide a boost of opportunity.

This is prime real estate, and its potential should be maximized. The community gets one shot to do it right, and Tri-City leaders know it.

The airstrip at Vista Field closed in 2013, creating this rare chance to develop land near attractions like the Toyota Center, the Columbia Center mall, the Three Rivers Convention Center, and popular restaurants and department stores.

The community was asked to attend a series of meetings to brainstorm ways the property could be used. Members of the Vista Vision Task Force had the daunting task of taking the ideas that came from these sessions and setting priorities.

What came from these discussions was a dream of an urban hub where people could live, work and shop, eat out and enjoy entertainment. Most importantly, the plan emphasized walkways and paths that discouraged speeding cars.

Getting the ambiance right is important, and that will be determined in large part on the infrastructure.

Streets for the urban village purposely do not naturally connect to the surrounding street grid. Height restrictions that had been in place for the area have been removed, so buildings can be constructed higher. All city lights will be on motion sensors.

The plan includes condos, apartments and single-family homes, and 740,000 square feet devoted to commercial use.

For those Tri-Citians concerned about protecting open space, the project also includes 273,000 square feet of parks and other undeveloped land.

There also is room for the proposed performing arts center that is being driven by the nonprofit Arts Center Task Force. The $25 million, privately funded venue will have a proposed 800-seat theater and other amenities to support the Tri-City arts community.

While the anticipation of the Vista Field development is building, we hope that somewhere along the way more support can be found for the adjoining Three Rivers Campus.

The existing site is a destination for conferences, conventions, touring theater productions, concerts and, of course, hockey games.

But the facilities desperately need to be expanded and updated, and we are at risk of losing our beloved Tri-City Americans because the Western Hockey League has safety requirements that must be in place at the Toyota Center by the start of the 2019 season.

If those improvements aren’t made, the team cannot continue to play here.

In addition, officials with the convention center have said the Tri-Cities is losing out to other venues that can attract larger groups. They insist more room is needed at the Tri-City facility in order to stay competitive and keep existing clients.

Last month, however, Kennewick voters soundly defeated the sales tax proposal that would have fixed these problems. So where do we go from here?

It would be a shame if the new Visa Field project takes off while the existing Three Rivers Campus declines.

As momentum builds for the new amenities at Vista Field, the community needs to figure out a way to make sure both it and the Three Rivers Campus thrive.

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