Director of port favors firm from Portland

No decision yet; RKm Development is set to make its case next month

On March 14, Port of Camas-Washougal executive direcor David Ripp met with Roy Kim of Portland’s RKm Development to talk about the possibility of the company developing the port’s waterfront property. Port director of planning and development Mark Miller and port commissioner Bill Ward were also present.

Ripp came out of that meeting feeling good about what he’d just heard.

“It was another good interview,” Ripp told the port’s commissioners at their March 18 meeting. “I believe RKm’s vision and view of the development of the property is a very close match to ours. .. The feeling I’m getting is that this is potentially a developer that we’d like to work with.”

RKm was one of four companies that submitted qualifications to revitalize more than 26 acres of waterfront land near the Washougal Waterfront Park and Trail. (The others were Project^, Terra Pacific Development, LLC and Williams/Dame & Associates, Inc.) Port district staff members interviewed all four, and RKm emerged as the front-runner.

“One of the things commissioner Ward had asked (Kim) was, ‘What do you see phase one being?’ Three things he listed off was some type of corporate office, maybe a hotel (and) mixed use,” Ripp said. “The one thing he specifically said is he doesn’t want to do a big box (store) or anything like that because he feels it will take away from the village feel, the live-work-play feeling.”

RKm Development’s comparable projects include Downtown Rockwood, a mixed-use office, multi-family residential, plaza and play area on 5.5 acres in Gresham; LaScala, a mixed-use building with ground-floor retail shops in Beaverton; and Bethany Village, a mixed-use town center with retail, apartments, condominiums, offices, an athletic club and senior living, in Portland.

“The other thing that made us feel very good in regard to some of (Kim’s) comments is he doesn’t want to take away or start over in regards to community input and vision,” Ripp said. “He wants to build on what we’ve already done. They’ve done that in (their) past projects as well.”

Ripp told the board members that before any decision is finalized, Kim will make a presentation at the board’s April 15 meeting.

“He could talk about the projects that they’ve done and what they’re working on and answer any questions that you may have so you guys have a point of reference for that,” Ripp told the board members. “If everything was comfortable, we could look at giving a nod ahead to start negotiating a memorandum of understanding, which is an non-binding agreement, so we can keep the ball rolling.”

Ward, however, expressed significant reservations about moving closer to an arrangement with RKm.

“A big question in my mind is, after all the work we’ve gone through to promote this and invite developers, we seem to have only one developer at this point that we’re talking to,” Ward said. “(RKm) was impressive; they seemed to be quite amenable, approachable, and had done good work. But aligning ourselves with a single developer at this time precludes options. I would like to talk to another one of the firms that submitted a statement of qualifications to see if they may want to be more specific or if they have a different approach.

“My feeling is we’re making a commitment, albeit maybe a nonbinding agreement, but we’re making a commitment.”

Ripp responded, “That’s why we went through that process, and we believe we chose the best out of the four that we received. We interviewed those four, and this is the best one that we saw.”

Ward also talked about his misgivings about certain specifics of RKm’s potential plan.

“I heard a lot of platitudes cloaked in generalities as far as them abiding by our vision and saluting our vision, but very few specifics of what I call information of a proprietary nature,” he said. “It was my understanding that (RKm) expects tenants to emerge out of the woodwork, which really doesn’t hold to the standard that we had established. I feel that we’re looking for a developer that has a catalogue of potential users that they can tap into to recruit and retain the businesses that are going to be suitable for the waterfront. I didn’t feel that coming out (from RKm). I got a very uncomfortable feeling about that.”

Port commissioner said John Spencer said that while he’s not ready to make any final decisions just yet, he’s comfortable with the way the selection process has been going.

“Basically the point of what we’re doing is to make (RKm) comfortable to provide all of the information we want,” he said. “They need to know that they’re our (pick) assuming they satisfy all our needs. If we go down the road staff is suggesting, (we’ll) evaluate them thoroughly, and if at that point we find that they don’t match (our vision), or they don’t have the financial capability or whatever, then we kick them to the curb and go to the next guy. That’s my understanding of how it’s supposed to work. We’ll hear the presentation (April 15), then decide what we’re doing.”

Commissioner Larry Keister echoed similar thoughts.

“I’d like to sit through the presentation first and get a feeling of what (Ward) went through before I make any decisions,” he said. “I don’t want to make any assumptions until I hear the presentation. Then we’ll go from there.”

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