Developers: NE 139th is next ‘hot corridor’

Increased access & synergistic partnerships are leading to more development in Salmon Creek

Gary Bock of Smith Root

Completion of the NE 139th Street freeway interchange and bridge along I-5, in combination with an improving economy, has sparked a construction boom in the Salmon Creek area that appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Jim West, commercial realtor at Coldwell Banker, said “Actually I do see it (139th Street) as the next hot corridor. There’s so much land available along the Discovery Corridor from 134th to the Ridgefield Junction. [It’s] kind of anchored on the south by WSU-Vancouver and Legacy (Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center) and, as you go north, Peace Health and Clark College have land in Ridgefield. A lot of development both residential and commercial will come over time and again that might be three, four, five years down the road.”

From a development perspective there’s good news and challenges that need to be worked through to make growth predictions viable. Ron Frederiksen, CEO of RSV Building Solutions, is seeing signs that the traffic and congestion relief around 134th Street in the Salmon Creek area are spurring commercial development. He described a recently-completed project wherein nine doctors approached their company to construct a 30,000-square-foot medical building. This owner-occupied venture – Three Creeks Medical Center – is strategically situated on the west side of 139th Street.

However, complying with stormwater regulations is posing a problem with several projects. While no one wants to see untreated water migrate to a wetland area or drinking supply, the cost of compliance added on to a proposed project can make some land unusable or undesirable.

Frederiksen predicts that as rents and property values increase there will be more money available to solve this problem, but for now, it’s a consideration that investors need to factor in to determine project viability.

“The other issue is that area (NE 139th Street) is now changing from an industrial/warehouse/second tier area and now people want to go and put in shopping centers and office buildings and all that,” Frederiksen explained. “Unfortunately, the buildings there have been there 20-25 years and are still functional and it doesn’t make sense to tear them down so you’re tearing down a perfectly serviceable building.”

Finally, Frederiksen pointed to the permitting process. He said that Marty Snell, community development director for Clark County, and his staff are doing a great job, but the county went from people sitting on the fence during the economic downturn to “let’s go build something” and the process from that decision to being able to make it happen is easily adding six months to every project.

Frederiksen noted that for some industries, like hi-tech where applications change quickly, that is not time they can afford to take.

Regardless of the drawbacks, increased access with the NE 139th Street freeway interchange and synergistic partnerships with WSU-Vancouver continues to keep Salmon Creek an attractive location.

Smith-Root, a fisheries technology company located on Salmon Creek Avenue since 1972, decided to build a 30,000-square-foot facility north of the campus that’s slated for end-of-summer occupancy.

Business development and community relations spokesperson, Gary Bock, said “This area is convenient for our staff. We’re comfortable here. Most of us are long-time Clark County residents. [We] certainly had no interest in moving south of the border.”

He also cited their interaction with scientists, biologists and professors at WSU-V as a beneficial relationship and their strong science presence through civil engineering, electrical engineering and biology provide relevant job opportunities for graduating students.

Still awaiting a final health inspection, Community Home Health & Hospice (CHHH) had a recent ribbon cutting for their new in-patient care facility along NE 134th Street and, once again, access was an attractive feature of their land purchase.

CEO, Greg Pang, said “We loved how accessible it is to [Interstate] 5 and 205. We have visiting nurses and social workers that visit patients inside their homes. This is nice because it’s centrally located. Since we have a hospice care center, we need families to get to us easily so we just needed to be accessible to families coming in and staff getting out.”

Pang believes that Legacy has been the catalyst for a strong medical presence in the area and, although proximity to WSU-V was not a deciding factor for CHHH, it’s proving advantageous with nursing student exposure and a qualified hiring pool. Looking ahead to their phase two building plan, there’ll be a community conference center with clinical offerings in collaboration with WSU-V as well as Clark College nursing students who utilize the WSU-V campus.

“I’d like to expose more clinical providers to end-of-life care. It’s its own specialized field,” Pang said. “[We have a] great relationship. A number of grads from both programs come to us. WSU wrote a letter of recommendation for our Certification of Need.”

According to West, it’s actually the west side of I-5 that’s poised for more growth. He said that the county has plans to build a bridge over Whipple Creek and continue NE 10th Avenue to the fairgrounds.

“That will be one solid area with adjacent corridors to move east-west across the freeway. A lot of permits are being applied for new residential from 134th to 179th, so there’s going to be a lot of growth in the whole area which will continue to drive more commercial development,” West said.

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