Editorial: Vista Field vision one step closer

The Vista Field development just hit an exciting mark.

The Port of Kennewick recently unveiled the project’s 320-page transportation plan to the Kennewick City Council and received an enthusiastic response. Even though it won’t officially be submitted for a couple of more months, it appears city leaders like what they see.

The document maps out in detail the future street layout, traffic patterns and parking areas for the 113-acre site, and shows how it all connects to existing city streets. This is a critical step in turning the former airfield into a hub of urban activity, and will help establish the look and ambiance of the project.

Finally, there is a roadmap for the dream.

The airstrip at Vista Field closed in 2013, creating an unprecedented opportunity to develop this prime piece of real estate. From the beginning, city and port officials knew they had to do it right.

So a little over a year ago, the community was asked to attend a series of charrettes and brainstorm ways the land could be used. Members of the Vista Vision Task Force said they chose to use the term “charrette” because it means a “final intensive effort” to finish a project, especially an architectural design.

From these meetings, it was determined the new Vista Field should be a place dominated by pedestrians and not vehicles. That meant the design needed to emphasize walkways and encourage slow-moving traffic.

The vision outlined in the port’s transportation plan encourages this, and shows the future city center as a place where people live, work, shop, dine and enjoy entertainment. Kennewick Mayor Steve Young told port officials they “hit the nail on the head” with their proposal, and others on the city council seemed equally pleased.

Watching from the sideline, it’s encouraging to see the port and city hit this cooperative stride on the project. The land to be developed belongs to the port, but we have said all along that the vision for Vista Field must extend to the entire region.

Port commissioners have wisely tried to incorporate the city and the Kennewick Irrigation District into their efforts to design something remarkable, and it looks so far like they are on the right track.

Larry Peterson, the port’s director of development and planning, said the “charrette ideas actually work,” and that those suggestions are being incorporated into the vision for Vista Field.

It is reassuring when public input is taken to heart by community leaders.

The Vista Field plan includes 1,200 residences, 311,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, and another 500,000 square feet of office space and parks. There also is room for a proposed 800-seat performing arts center that is being driven and supported by the Arts Center Task Force.

That’s not to be confused with the Kennewick Facilities District proposal to create an addition to the Three Rivers Convention Center called The Link, which includes a 2,300-seat Broadway-style theater. This plan is separate from the performing arts center and will rely on voter support for a two-tenths of a percent sales tax increase.

All these pieces together could add up to something amazing. We hope the momentum continues.