Leveraging the land
30 Apr 2009
- Last Updated on Thursday, 30 April 2009 12:25
- Published on Tuesday, 29 November -0001 16:00
- Written by Megan Patrick-Vaughn
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Although the port has been the target of some criticism following the demise of waterfront development plans with Riverwalk on the Columbia LLC in 2007, it is forging ahead to make improvements and develop land to create jobs – which is ultimately a port’s job, said Scot Walstra, director of planning and development.
Creating industrial draw
Working with Berger Abam and MacKay and Sposito Inc., both of Vancouver, a master development plan is underway for the 122 acres of undeveloped land in the port’s 430-acre industrial park. It started with a zoning review, which determined that the land’s heavy industrial zone is appropriate and flexible for future development, Walstra said.
The public process is now focused on what design options should be applied to the park.
The port is gathering feedback on design features regarding loading docks, solid waste and recycling, building materials, parking lots, public frontages, screening and buffers, signage and pedestrian amenities and stormwater.
Public comments so far have emphasized the need to honor and preserve the natural beauty of the area and make future development attractive and sustainable.
An open house is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 27 at the port offices to review and gain comment on the draft alternative plans.
For the last few years, Clark County has had low industrial vacancy but in recent months, vacancy has entered the double digits. But Walstra said he doesn’t expect demand to dwindle. Out-of-state companies are looking to relocate to take advantage of the area’s tremendous capacity for electricity and quality of life, he said.
The port’s 310 acres of developed industrial property are 93 percent occupied, down from 98 percent. The decrease is directly related to the drop in residential new construction, Walstra said.
The port has had several offers for development in the park, including three recent bona fide proposals to buy and develop fairly large single cluster projects, Walstra said. Industries that have expressed interest include biofuel, forest products, technology manufacturing and aquatic sciences development.
Airport plans take off
There are about 4,000 registered pilots in Clark County, but Walstra said because of Grove Field’s limited scope, the port is missing out on a big opportunity for jobs and dollars.
The port is in the midst of a $480,000 environmental assessment and public process to clear the way for realigning and expanding the 2,620-foot-long runway and adding needed hangars.
The goal is to increase safety and make the recreational airport fully compliant with Federal Aviation Administration design standards to position the port to take advantage of FAA funding.
“FAA certification opens the door for funding to make improvements that it would otherwise take the port decades to complete,” Walstra said. “It essentially fast tracks the ability to do economic development for the community.”
The project would realign the runway to the south and extend it to the west about 350 feet, which would require the relocation of Delp Road.
Alaska-based WHPacific and JLA Public Involvement, which has offices in Vancouver and Portland, are working with the port to conduct the assessment and public outreach.
A Draft Environmental Assessment is expected for public review in the fall, with an environmental finding expected from the FAA in late 2009. Construction could begin in 2010.
The air field now generates 24 jobs and about $1.4 million, but it has no fixed-base operators at the airport. Improved facilities and 17 new hangars are expected, but Walstra said the field could use another 100 hangars on top of that.
On the waterfront
The port recently finished two marina repair projects and dredging, which removed silt and sediment from the marina.
Older wood components were replaced on the 1,300-foot breakwater, which serves as a dock for visiting boats and reduces wave action inside the marina.
In-house, the port rebuilt and installed launch ramps. Together, the projects cost about $434,000.
Future plans include adding slips for boats larger than 40 feet – which the marina can’t now accommodate – that could attract a different group of boaters, Walstra said.