Development hot topic at port retreat

CEO: Paper mill site could become business park, commercial center

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Brian Vanneman and Wally Hobson of the Portland-based Leland Consulting Group, talk with Martha Martin, of Washougal, and Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner Larry Keister, Friday, Feb. 15, during a break of the port's strategic and capital planning retreat at The Heathman Lodge, in Vancouver. Vanneman and Hobson are working with the port to oversee the selection of a firm to develop more than 26 acres near Washougal Waterfront Park and Trail.

The future Port of Camas-Washougal waterfront development should include destination retail, such as restaurants, according to consultants advising the port.

Wally Hobson, a senior advisor with the Portland-based Leland Consulting Group, told port commissioners during the port’s strategic and capital planning retreat Friday, Feb. 15, the Puffin Cafe, located near the Port of Camas-Washougal marina, would fit in the category of destination retail.

Port Commissioner Bill Ward suggested a restaurant like Salty’s Waterfront Seafood Grill would be a good addition to the Camas-Washougal area. He later mentioned the local waterfront could serve as a location for a Washington State University branch or a Home Depot customer service center, and then said an Amazon headquarters would be “a real home run.”

Hobson and Leland Principal Brian Vanneman are working with the port to oversee the selection of a development firm for the waterfront land located on part of the former Hambleton Lumber Company property, at 54 S. Second St., Washougal.

Four firms — Project^, RKm Development, Terra Pacific Development, LLC and Williams/Dame & Associates, Inc. — have expressed interest in revitalizing more than 26 acres of prime waterfront land near the Washougal Waterfront Park and Trail.

Vanneman said they expect to select a preferred developer in late March or April 2019, and then create a memorandum of understanding/letter of intent by June 2019. The development agreement could involve purchase and sale or ground leases.

Port Commissioner Larry Keister said his waterfront vision includes a multi-use development with a hotel and conference center, restaurants, coffee shops, retail and professional office space, along with a festival street for outdoor events, and a public market with space suitable for startup businesses.

“It needs to offer a unique sense of place,” Keister said. “Would I want to live there, work there or both?”

Hobson said food, beverage and healthcare providers are currently the “hot retail markets.” That includes sports bars and brewpubs.

Hobson added that there is a market for destination boutique hotels throughout the U.S., and the Port of Camas-Washougal waterfront area would provide views of Mount Hood and the Columbia River as well as access to recreation options such as kayaking and biking.

Hobson and Vanneman’s future tasks include providing the port with a public buildings analysis of a cultural center. Vanneman said a performing arts center is not a revenue generator, and that the nearby Black Pearl event center could be leased out for performances. Other options that he mentioned include a flexible theater space without fixed seats or a community room that would be smaller than a performing arts center.

Vanneman said the price tag on a 200 to 500 seat theater with a backstage area could be $10 million to $40 million.

During public comments, Richard Hamby, of Washougal, said waterfront boutiques and restaurants would attract international visitors who are in the area to see the Columbia River Gorge.

He supports a multipurpose performing arts center that would be open seven days a week and offer cultural displays and a gift shop.

Washougal City Council member Ray Kutch encouraged the Port of Camas-Washougal commissioners to look locally for clientele to the waterfront. That would include residents of Camas, Washougal, Clark County and Portland.

“There is a lot of money from Southwest Washington,” he said.

Port could partner with Camas, redevelop paper mill sites

During the port’s strategic and capital planning retreat, Port Chief Executive Officer David Ripp updated the port commission regarding city of Camas’ officials discussions with representatives from Georgia-Pacific about the mill site as well as buildings located north of the mill, called the Camas Business Center.

Ripp said by phone Monday, the port’s interest in the Georgia-Pacific mill property is seeing it potentially redeveloped for a better use.

“It’s so far out, we have to wait and see if we would play a role,” he said. “The port may want to partner with the city if something were to work out.”

The Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Camas continues to operate with a greatly reduced workforce. In 2018, Georgia-Pacific halted pulp operations in Camas, shut down one of the mill’s two remaining paper lines and laid-off nearly 300 employees. The mill is located on 656 acres at 401 N.E. Adams St., in downtown Camas.

Ripp said eventually the paper mill site could be a business park or a commercial center. The Port of Camas-Washougal currently does not have any property in Camas. The port’s airport, Grove Field, is located outside the city limits of Camas.