117th corridor is Orchards’ low-hanging fruit

Development on lower Highway 503 is eclectic at best, and taxing Battle Ground resources

117th development corridor

The growing pains are real – but so are the dollars.

To say the Orchards area is a patchwork would be to nearly romanticize the clashing development of new high-end apartment complexes, late 20th Century-planned housing developments, random-seeming empty lots, independent mom-and-pop shops, dilapidated trailer parks and the occasional run down craftsman home serving as a business.

On the north the area is bounded by and dotted throughout with bucolic farm scenes and touch points of country living from the aptly named neighborhood’s rural roots: family favorites Thornton’s Tree Farm, BiZi Farm and church upon church. From the south, suburban development and commerce creep toward Battle Ground as real estate prices continue to soar in the Vancouver city limits and beyond.

Current projects – and problems – on the 117th Avenue corridor north of 99th Street include:

Clark County Saddle Club. The 73-year-old, 700-member Clark County Saddle Club sat stubbornly in the midst of it all as apartment buildings rose around it and horse trailers found it increasingly difficult to wend their way onto acreage at 10505 NE 117th Ave. Just more than a year ago, the beloved organization finally purchased 20 acres four miles north, in Battle Ground, and then another adjacent 20, meanwhile selling its 14-acre Orchards property to The Cosmopolitan LLC for $2.5 million, just a few blocks north of the massive Padden Commerce Park. While it is not yet evident what will be built on the property when it is finally cleared by the Saddle Club, The Cosmopolitan most recently developed the sold-out Pacific Village subdivision in East Vancouver built by Generation Homes Northwest, so homes could be on the horizon.

7-11/Starbucks/Gas Station. Vancouver-based MAJ Development is developing 2.01 acres on the northwest corner of 99th Street and 117th Avenue. Residents can expect to see a Starbucks, a 7-11 and an eight-pump gas station. Commercial Realty Advisors NW is the leasing agent on an additional commercial pad of up to 3,800 square feet on the site. CRA predicts 75,419 residents to be in a three-mile radius, a nearly 7,000-person increase by 2024, and cites nearly 21,000 current employees in that same radius. Closer to the epicenter, within a mile radius, the numbers reflect the area’s as yet undeveloped tracts, putting only about 14,000 residents within a mile of 117th and 99th in five years from now and 2,758 employees there today. There are at least 13 Greater Brush Prairie subdivisions currently in pre-application conference right now, which will add 384 single family homes or townhomes to the area.

117th avenue development
The new MAJ development, foreground, has not yet broken ground. Across from it on 117th Avenue sits another undeveloped lot on prime real estate. VBJ file

Four Corner Plaza. On prime real estate across 117th Avenue from the new MAJ development sits a project named Four Corner Plaza. A request for approval for four commercial buildings totaling 14,269 square feet located in 1.96 acres was in review nearly two years ago and still sits vacant, save for an engulfing mound of brambles and a dilapidated home. The development, owned by reclusive yet politically influential local developer Asghar Sadri, has been in a holding pattern since 2017, although a sign does indicate that warehouse spaces are for lease. However, this may simply be a billboard for the company’s warehouse development near Hwy 14. Kia Keyvani, who works with Sadri on various developments, is listed as an owner on the property and is also the leasing manager for the warehouse development and did not return a request for comment.

Cornerstone Christian Academy. In 2018, Cornerstone Christian Academy moved onto 4.8 acres of land on 117th Avenue at 108th Street, and proliferated more than a dozen temporary buildings for the K-8 private school. The grand plan is to build a permanent home on the site, including a high school and teacher training program, following a successful capital campaign underway.

Commercial Lot for Sale. MAJ Commercial Real Estate is selling a 3.45-acre property in the corridor across from Prairie High School for a reduced price of $1.2 million. The property includes 2.7 acres zoned commercial fronting Highway 503 and .7 acres zoned R-30, higher density residential or office development.

Battle Ground Schools. While all this movement north of 99th Street is happening – commercial and residential alike – the area falls into the Battle Ground School District. Yet Battle Ground voters last approved a bond in 2005 to finance the construction of several new schools, additions and improvements. In April, voters again rejected a measure that would have improved both the elementary school and middle school directly serving this corridor, as well as construction on two new schools.

According to the BGPS website, Glenwood Heights Primary, built in 1956 for 484 students, is overcrowded with more than 800 students. It lacks secure access to classrooms and doesn’t have the modern infrastructure to support today’s learning styles and technology usage. The core facilities, such as the parking lot and cafeteria, are too small to support the number of students. Fourth graders eat at the nearby Laurin cafeteria. Laurin Middle School was built in 1965 for 600 students and has more than 700. Both schools would be replaced with larger facilities based on the district’s prototypical school design.

A new K-4, 5-8 campus is also planned west of Northeast 152nd Avenue between Northeast 99th and 119th streets in the southeast corner of the district, directly serving the exploding corridor.

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