Port unveils waterfront design ‘Option D’

Fourth option incorporates community feedback, preserves more water views

Earlier this year, the Port of Camas-Washougal released three conceptual designs for the first phase of its Waterfront at Parker’s Landing development, but Port officials were adamant that they weren’t going to simply pick one of them.

They released the designs to solicit feedback from community members in the hopes of eventually selecting a fourth option that would combine elements of the first three designs. During the Port commissioners’ Oct. 23 meeting, Matt Brown of Portland-based YBA Architects introduced an unofficial “Option D,” which presented some notable changes from the earlier designs.

“We’ve been trying to synthesize and hear the feedback, as well as the internal discussions we’ve been having with Port staff and the preferred developer,” Brown said.

David Ripp, the Port’s chief executive officer, said that while the Port won’t be selecting Option D, he’s pleased with the progression of the development.

“Everybody likes where we are, how we got here and where we’re headed,” Ripp said. “Matt always impresses. He communicates and presents well, and does a good job of asking for input. I feel good about the direction of where we’re going with the process. It’s been very collaborative. I feel like we’re a team, and I’m pleased with the work that’s been done so far. We’ve gotten to where we are by all working together.”

“We are wanting all of this input and public comment, but at the end of the day, we’re finalizing more of a vision,” Ripp continued. “What is built will be dependent on what the market looks like two years, five years, 10 years from now. The site plan may differ when it’s built in terms of orientation. But right now we’re trying to produce the concept, and the look and feel (of the site). We want to make this a destination. We want to make it look nice and tie in with the environment.”

Option D incorporates changes based on community members’ comments, including a desire to connect the development to the waterfront as much as possible while retaining the area’s scenic views.

“For all the buildings, we’re really trying to maximize the amount of aspect that folks that are living here, working here, shopping here, etcetera, would have,” Brown said. “We really started to shape the buildings consciously to create views, whether they’re oblique views in the middle tier or obviously very direct views on the edge.”

To help with that process, Brown changed the some of the street orientations.

“Unlike all three of the (previous) options, where we had an east-west street through the middle, we tried to (consider) the comments of providing better view corridors and better connecting the development with the water and orient the connecting streets north-south,” he said.

“Another thing about the north-south that I really like is that because you will have these oblique views to the water, especially if you have three, four-story buildings, you’ll be able to see down through the street,” he continued. “It’s actually a pretty big advantage. If these streets were oriented east-west, you wouldn’t quite have that same connection.”

The design also incorporated some tweaks to address two of the other main concerns — parking and the preservation of green space.

“To some extent, in this scheme, we’re showing the maximum amount of development, so there is still a fair amount of parking,” Brown said, “but we’re also trying to introduce some green areas, and also push as much parking as we can to the northern part of the site.”

Ripp said that “we want to make sure that we preserve the green space between the trail and the river,” known as a riparian zone.

“We have no desire to change it,” he said. “We may enhance it or improve access in the future, but we’re not going to pave over it. We want to keep the natural beauty that’s already there.”

Commissioner Bill Ward voice his approval of Brown’s work at the Oct. 22 meeting.

“Aesthetics wise, you’ve done a superb job of creating a center that is going to be visually appealing,” Ward told Brown.

Camas resident Cassi Marshall, who is running against Ward for the No. 2 commissioner position in the Nov. 5 general election, said she’s “excited” about Option D.

“Community members spoke pretty loudly that they wanted automobiles back off the waterfront, and Option D definitely took that into consideration and removed the road from the water, and also allowed for a really flexible use of that space,” Marshall said at the Clark County League of Women Voters’ candidate forum, held Oct. 23 at the Camas Public Library.

“The architects explained the ‘woonerf’ concept, and being able to close off a road for public events comes with flexibility, which I would support,” she continued. “Also honoring the waterfront and keeping tons of public access to the waterfront, both in views and actual physical access, was mentioned by the public as a priority, (and was) incorporated and reflected in this Option D.”

Throughout the design process, Port, YBA Architects and RKm Development employees have talked about creating a facility similar to Pybus Public Market in Wenatchee, Washington, as part of their development.

Pybus, which opened in May 2013 in a 25,000-square-foot building that used to house a steel manufacturing company, features local farm goods, artisanal foods, restaurants and specialty shops, with more than 20 full-time tenants and vendors, and provides a hub for the Wenatchee area’s farmer’s markets.

“I like (Pybus),” Ripp said. “I’ve been able to go visit it and go inside, and it’s cool. It’s inviting. I like the feel of the shops and restaurants. That’s definitely something I’d like to see in our property as well.”

While Pybus is housed in a standalone building on the edge of the popular Riverfront Trail two blocks from downtown Wenatchee, Brown proposed a more subtle approach for a market hall in the Parker’s Landing development.

“One of the criticisms that was echoed by a lot of folks was that in ‘Option B,’ the market hall was right on the water, and there was concern that it was blocking the view and also that that use might be better positioned deeper in the site,” he said.

“Instead of creating a stand-alone building, maybe we (can) create a market by creating some smaller-scale spaces around and outside, maybe covered space, so it’s cheaper to build, but gives you the same kind of effect. I think this can be a nice harmony with those other uses on the waterfront, and would be a much more efficient way to realize this goal rather than building a standalone shed structure.”

Port officials will continue to accept feedback from community members before the commissioners vote on a final first-phase master plan concept in December.

“I think people like what we’re doing,” Ripp said. “This is not a contentious project. This is a positive project. People can see what we’re doing. We communicate and we’re open with what we do. We’re moving forward in a positive direction that they support.”