City, port should agree on one bridge-to-bridge plan

Sometimes it seems that redevelopment of Kennewick's riverfront is cursed.

Whenever a group resurrects the discussion of revitalizing the Columbia River shoreline between the bridge, something happens to take away all the momentum.

We've seen a lot of ideas over the past decade, but most of it never has taken shape.

And it seems the latest action plan approved unanimously last week by Kennewick's Planning Commission has met a similar fate.

Despite that commission's approval, the city council sent the proposal back to the drawing board with some highly critical comments and a request for city staff to address the council's concerns before bringing the plan back for consideration.

Councilman Bob Parks even asked at the city council workshop: "Who cooked this up? Somebody from over in Seattle or Bellevue?"

Well, yes.

The council had hired Beckwith Associates of Bellevue to develop the proposal, but council members didn't like what they were presented last week.

Beckwith's plan came after a half-dozen community meetings with property owners and community surveys. It showed a hip mixed-use neighborhood in place of the weathered businesses in the commercial strip along Columbia Drive from Highway 397 to Fruitland.

It showed retail shops at the ground level and housing and businesses on the upper floors. Parking would be hidden on parking decks within the structures.

Parking seemed to be the main source of contention. The Port of Kennewick and the city council both appeared concerned about the cost of requiring parking garages to be part of any riverfront structures.

As much as we would like to see additional redevelopment and new life along that stretch of riverfront, we knew there was something amiss when it became clear the Port of Kennewick was not a fan of the Beckwith Associates proposal.

When the port said it "got sideways" with the consultant hired by the city months ago, that sounded ominous.

Cooperation by all the parties involved is critical for the success of a redevelopment project, and if the port -- with its substantial stake in Clover Island and Columbia Drive -- wasn't on board with the plan, there really was no point in attempting to move forward.

Frankly, the rift between the port and the city's consultant should have been addressed before any kind of plan was recommended by the planning commission. The redevelopment project will be tough enough to complete without the two main agencies involved working at cross purposes.

From what we've seen in recent years, it's clear the Port of Kennewick has been the leading force behind redevelopment along Columbia Drive so far. Take one look at the transformation on Clover Island, and you'll see what we mean.

The port has been buying land between the bridges and has cleaned up an aging trailer park at the entrance to the island, opening prime riverfront sites for redevelopment.

There's no fuss, no muss. The port announces a plan and gets it done.

The port envisions a mix of wineries, microbreweries and distilleries that would attract locals and tourists alike, and give the area a funky quality that is needed to give new life to a gentrified area of a city.

While we like the port's vision, we'd like a unified vision even better. With the port and city working together, the bridge to bridge neighborhood can realize its potential to become a major attraction.

We've heard enough from consultants.

Why not create a joint commission of city and port officials, set some priorities and a plan framework and just get something done?