“What growth?” Ridgefield City Manager Steve Stuart said jokingly when asked about the rapidly developing Ridgefield Junction area.
But the truth is there’s almost nothing but growth in the promising location. Anchored by job-producing businesses like the Dollar Tree warehouse, Church & Dwight consumer goods, Corwin Beverages and a host of other companies that came in after a major improvement spur in 2004, the site is now gearing up for its next big growth wave. Among the new crop, Vancouver Clinic Ridgefield is set to open by mid-summer and Rosauers grocery is slated to open in August or September. And a host of other companies and attractions to draw workers and consumers to the area are also on deck, including the new Clark College North County Campus that can take 1,000 students starting in 2020, Stuart said.
“Every day I go out there and there’s something new,” Stuart said. “But the conversations about the plans for this area began 20-30 years ago. The junction was just a rural interchange before all this started.”
Ridgefield Junction spans 742 acres along I-5 at Pioneer Street. It’s bounded by NW 279th Street to the North, N. 85th Ave. to the East, NW Timm Road to the South and close to S. 56th Place to the West. There are about 348,000 residents within a 20 minute drive of the spot, and about 80,000 cars go by per day.
Back 30 years ago when the site was empty, the city didn’t even stretch out that far. Ridgefield was mostly concerned with developing its downtown area in the early 1990s. But with the city in an economic downturn, residents decided to pull together and look at what they could do to create a stronger economic future, Stuart said.
“Years ago the farmers in this community got together,” Stuart said. “They understood that over time the city would need to reach the interstate and create some options for employment for their kids and their kids’ kids.”
The city expanded to encompass the Ridgefield Junction area not long after, and it created the first comprehensive growth plan for the area in 1994. Since then, the city has expanded three times, including two times at the Junction.
“It started with a vision from landowners and long-term residents,” Stuart said. “Around 2000, 2003, we started upgrading the interchange to make it an urban interchange, because it wasn’t suited for industry prior to that. We also created an improvement district around the junction and landowners bought into it.”
Ridgefield residents bought up property around the Junction, and the city also got state and federal matching funds to rebuild the interchange. And more than 15 years later, one of the big selling points of the Junction is that residents have held onto large parcels of land at the site that are ready to go as business locations, Stuart said.
In 2015, the city updated its growth plan once again, taking a deep look at what the community wanted and what tools were needed to implement change.
“We created sub-area plans to lay growth foundations,” Stuart said. “The idea was really to use what we found from that to paint the picture for potential business investment and explain why we’re a good fit for business.”
Because residents had bought up property, the site now has some of the largest single ownership contiguous parcels in the state, parcels that have never been broken up.
The Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) also completed a jobs study looking at shovel-ready spots in Clark County, and five of the 15 were in Ridgefield.
“That’s all related to the vision that was set by the residents of Ridgefield,” he said.
Jennifer Baker, president of CREDC, said the organization is eager to see growth continue at the site.
“Ridgefield is a key contributor to the unparalleled quality of place we enjoy in our region – from its stunning natural surroundings, charming Main Street and downtown to its booming winery scene,” Baker said. “Additionally, as of our most recent Employment Land Study, Ridgefield holds the second highest concentration of Tier 1 market-ready sites (20+ acres that can be developed within six months) in Clark County and we are excited to see this area continue to grow and thrive.”
With home sales also on the rise in the city (Ridgefield has consistently been on the state’s fastest growing communities list for the past five years), the two new additions of the Vancouver Clinic and Rosauers grocery will provide some much-needed services. Rosauers will be the city’s first full-service grocery story with about 53,000 square feet of space. And the Vancouver Clinic Ridgefield will have about 25 health care professionals when it opens in mid-summer.
“Vancouver Clinic has provided care in SW Washington for over 80 years,” said Chastell Ely, a spokeswoman. “As Clark County grows, we want to continue expanding locations to provide the very best care close to where people live and work. This new clinic will allow us to meet the primary health needs of North Clark County residents, as well as provide continuity of care access to all the specialty care Vancouver Clinic offers at nearby locations.”
The city actually did about two years of research before recruiting Rosauers to the site. It went through a national recruiting firm to find the company, which is based in Spokane.
“Rosauers really set itself up as a great fit for Ridgefield and vice-versa,” Stuart said. “It’s high quality, unique, community focused and has a great design ethic. It was a great fit. The whole community is excited about it.”
Rosauers is also attracting some smaller retailers to join the mixed use development at the site. Trap Door Brewing has signed a lease to open a full-scale brewery and tap room across the street from the grocery store. There’s also a 10-acre park connected to housing at the site.
“I think in the next four to six months there will be a stream of announcements about new businesses coming in,” Stuart said. “We have a lot of small and large employers that are interested.”
Another bit of growth news is that United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), which moved to the area in 2017, is planning on tripling its capacity at the site. It was 250,000 square feet, and it’s adding 577,000 square feet. So, its full footprint when the project is finished will be about 800,000 square feet.
“Obviously a lot of jobs come along with that,” Stuart said.
Also under construction in the area are Keller’s Supply, a light manufacturing company, Bed Tech, which will house office space and a warehouse for mattresses, and Camp Bow Wow, an overnight boarding facility for dogs and cats. There’s also a 112,000-square-foot shell building going up to provide office space.
Ilani casino has helped to bring even more traffic through the area, which is a boon for business growth and tourism.
And Clark College’s North County Campus, set to open in 2021, will likely drive even more traffic to the area, Stuart said.
“I don’t think we’ll see things slow down much for a long time,” Stuart said. “If we’re doing our jobs right, in the coming years Ridgefield Junction will be a vibrant employment hub with educational opportunities through Clark College, restaurants, retail. I think all of that is not only possible but probably given the trajectory.”