Port seeks waterfront developer

Request for proposals to be released soon

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The road ends, at least for now, near the Western entrance of Washougal Waterfront Park and Trail, 335 S. "A" St., Washougal. Individually, Port of Camas-Washougal commissioners envision a cultural center, corporate office park, restaurants, coffee shops and a boutique hotel to be built on the vacant site. (Dawn Feldhaus/Post-Record)

With the Port of Camas-Washougal’s recent finalized purchase of land on the waterfront, the next step is to issue a request for proposals from developers.

The port purchased 11 acres — located on part of the former Hambleton Lumber Company property, at 335 S. “A” St., Washougal — from Killian Pacific for $5.98 million. After that purchase, the port owns a total of approximately 31.5 acres of waterfront land zoned highway commercial.

Port of C-W Executive Director David Ripp mentioned to port commissioners during their Monday, Aug. 6, meeting that he plans to have a request for proposals ready for the commissioners to discuss during their next meeting at 5 p.m., Monday, Aug. 20.

Ripp said the developer will help the port in the development of the site — potentially through land purchase, lease or a public private partnership.

“The greatest help will be from their vast experience from other projects as well as their clientele list,” he said.

Ripp said in a news release the port’s mission and intention is to maintain public access to the waterfront in any future development.

Killian Pacific, a commercial real estate development and investment company based in Vancouver, bought 8.5 acres, located on the east end of the waterfront, from the port for $2.53 million. Killian Pacific plans to develop 150 to 250 rental units that will probably be apartments, located adjacent to the port’s pedestrian waterfront trail, as well as the future natural play area and a one-acre park.

Ripp said the port paid more per acre than Killian because of the location and proximity to infrastructure.

“The property the port purchased is more desirable for commercial development,” he said. “Even though it’s zoned the same, there is a value difference when it comes to the type of development you are placing on the site. Commercial is more valuable than residential.”

Art advocates favor cultural center near Columbia River

Port of C-W Commissioner Bill Ward is hoping the future waterfront development will include a place where the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and other musicians, actors and actresses can perform.

Ward, a season ticket holder and contributor to the Vancouver Symphony’s annual campaign, remembers visiting the Sydney Opera House, in Sydney, Australia, while on vacation 25 years ago.

“We have an opportunity to do something equally novel and iconic,” he said.

Ward said a cultural center, combined with a conference center, would complement and encourage development of a corporate office park that would bring good paying jobs into the community.

“The center would provide common space for business conferences and expositions,” he added.

Ward said the port would probably own and manage the cultural and conference center.

“A large contribution would be inherent from interests in the community (for) naming rights,” he said.

Ward said restaurants would complement the office use and provide a reason for people to visit the waterfront.

He does not want to see any shops on the waterfront, describing retail as “a dying breed.”

“And we don’t want to compete with our downtowns,” Ward added.

Port Commissioner John Spencer said he likes the idea of a cultural center on the waterfront, in principle, but he would need to see a proposal.

“I doubt the port has the (financial) capacity to build one, so it would probably need to be a private venture or a public private partnership,” he said.

Spencer’s wish list for the Washougal waterfront includes shopping, restaurants and offices.

He envisions, 20 to 30 years from now, the waterfront will be “an important satellite community, recreation and tourist center to the two towns.”

“It will no longer include a boat launch, and the boat parking area will have become a more recent, phase II of the waterfront development,” he added. “A new boat launch will be located somewhere along the Camas slough. Camas will be developing a new showcase community along its waterfront with the port as an active partner.”

Port Commissioner Larry Keister said the focus of the local waterfront development will be to provide jobs and business opportunities.

“The development will not be like Portland’s South waterfront or Vancouver’s waterfront,” he said. “The port waterfront is unique and will be developed with the needs of Camas and Washougal in mind.”

Keister referred to the direct access to the Columbia River and a walking trail that will connect the port development with downtown Washougal.

He envisions restaurants, coffee shops and locations where people can enjoy the waterfront views, as well as a boutique hotel with a conference center, office space and co-op offices that can be used by business people who work out of their homes and need a temporary space to meet clients or hold meetings.

Keister would also like to see a festival street that can be blocked off for special events, farmers markets or art and craft fairs.

“Along this street would be retail opportunities on the ground floor and offices on the second floor,” he added. “It would be ideal for dental or medical or law offices.”

Keister said a performing arts building would be a benefit to the community by providing rentable space for live theater performances or musical events, classroom space for art, music, photography and dance lessons or rehearsals and a location for local artists to display their work.