Residents laud $9M Washougal Town Center project

Project managers hope to break ground in downtown Washougal in early 2025

timestamp icon
category icon Government, Latest News, Life, News, News, Washougal
Michelle Wright (right), the city of Washougal’s public works business administrator, talks with community members about the City’s Town Center Revitalization project at the Washougal Community Center, Tuesday, March 12, 2024. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Washougal residents had their first in-person look at the planned Washougal Town Center Revitalization project during an open house held March 12, at the Washougal Community Center.

City of Washougal officials, along with representatives from Robertson Fick Engineering and Shapiro Didway, a Portland-based landscape architecture firm, presented updated renderings and answered questions about the downtown Washougal project slated to break ground in early 2025.

“The goal is to revitalize downtown,” said Michelle Wright, the City’s public works business administrator. “We’re hoping that (the project) brings in businesses and can be a place for all citizens to hang out. This is a really important project for the City. I just can’t wait to build it because it’ll be a great playground for all ages.”

City officials introduced their plans for the $9 million downtown Washougal revitalization project in May 2022, saying then that an enhanced civic center would provide vital enhancements to the quality of life in Washougal and promote economic growth.

Plans for the new downtown hub include an outdoor community space, off-leash dog park, a pocket park and a splash pad. The project also calls for improved and expanded public parking near the Fort Vancouver Regional Library’s future library building, the Washougal Community Center and Washougal City Hall.

“The goals of this project are to provide vital enhancements to the quality of life in Washougal and promote economic growth by drawing the surrounding communities to an enhanced civic center to share all that Washougal has to offer — educationally, culturally and professionally,” the City stated in its communications about the revitalization project. “New urban greenspace will provide opportunities for passive recreation that supports individuals of all ages and will provide new opportunities for recreational programming at the adjacent community center. Improved access to the FVRL (library) and nearby Town Center businesses will serve as a major catalyst for redevelopment, encouraging new businesses to locate in this area and individuals to stay, play and shop in Washougal.

Residents weigh in on downtown project plans

During the CIty’s recent open house, several residents said they liked the concept of the downtown revitalization project.

“I know there’s a lot more details to be fleshed out, but I think so far they’re listening, and I think that is probably going to continue,” Washougal resident Rene Carroll said, adding that she also thought City leaders and the architecture and design firms have done a good job incorporating public feedback into the project.

“I like the natural aspect of it. They heard loud and clear that we wanted ‘natural,’ and there’s a bunch of some of that in this design,” Carroll said. “I like the areas for children, and a dog park is going to be very welcomed in the community. It will provide some versatility for hopefully some events and a real gathering place, give people something to do and (a place) to hang out. I could definitely see bringing my grandkids to the play area and splash pad.”

Washougal resident Rod London also liked the project and said he thought it would bring “a new energy” to downtown Washougal.

“They’re making it more of a greenway belt, opening it up, trying to get more people to come to this area,” London said. “With the dog park and the playground and the splash pad, I think more and more people are going to come this way and discover that there’s more here than they think. And then if they have things like Saturday markets, crafts and food carts, that changes everything. People would come here and look around and say, ‘There’s a lot going on here.’”

Another Washougal resident at the open house — who wished to only give her first name, Heena — said she is excited about the project because she wants “people to see that Washougal is a great little town to explore.”

“I like the openness. It’s very open,” Heena said about the project. “I like the kids’ play area, and I like the dog park because parents can come with their dogs and kids and sit in one spot and watch them all play. They can use the splash pad. It’s very family focused, and (that’s) a big thing for Washougal. And right across the street, we’ll have the library, so it’s a very exciting time to be in Washougal. I’m excited for Washougal because we’re growing.”

City provides more details about project’s timeline, possible disruptions

During the open house, London, a member of the Washougal Senior Association’s board of directors, asked Wright if the City is planning to bar the Washougal Senior Association from the Washougal Community Center during construction.

Wright said the seniors, as well as the other groups that utilize the community center, will not be displaced.

“The plan is to try to get it figured out with the designer and the contractor to see how we can stage it in a way where it will be less intrusive for Meals on Wheels, ReFuel Washougal and the seniors,” Wright said of any future construction disruptions. “We have to get the construction going, but we can do a lot of different things to balance it out, where we’re maybe trying to do a little bit on the weekends, or seeing if we can do it before the seniors come in. We’ve done construction on this building before, and it’s definitely a juggling (act).”

Wright’s answer seemed to satisfy London.

“We just need some advance notice so when we do our calendars, we can block off some dates and say, ‘OK, we’re not going to be in the facility,’ London said. “When there’s construction, we don’t want the kitchen to be open if there’s drywall floating around or anything like that.”

Other residents had questions about the project’s specific attractions, including the splash pad and dog park.

Wright said that she anticipates that the splash pad can become a year-round attraction, even in cold or wet weather.

“If the pad is icy, we can turn everything off,” she said. “We haven’t got to the details of how often the splash pad is going to be on, if it’s just going to be seasonal or whatever. But the whole area around it is still a congregating area where people will be able to sit down on the basalt rock. We know it rains, so we want to make sure that it’s a place that flows and people can walk around.”

Wright said the dog park will feature synthetic turf, “which won’t be torn up as much and be easier to maintain.”

Asked about the size of the dog park, Wright said she felt that “no matter the size, people like socializing their dogs and letting them run around.”

The City has procured $8.15 million from various, non-taxpayer sources for the project, which is estimated to cost a total of $9.12 million. The City plans to go out to bid for construction services in November.