Washougal downtown redefined

Lone Wolf’s Wes Hickey hopes Town Square will spur sustainability conversations

There is a better way to develop our land, says Washougal developer Wes Hickey, and he is hoping to provide the model for how to do it.

There is a better way to develop our land, says Washougal developer Wes Hickey, and he is hoping to provide the model for how to do it.

Hickey’s Lone Wolf Development is in the midst of constructing Washougal Town Square, a $13 million mixed-used building that fills a city block between 17th and 18th streets and "A" and "B" streets downtown.

The next phases of the project – three partial-block buildings on three separate blocks just north of the Town Square building – will likely break ground sometime in 2008.

Projections put the total construction cost at $45 million, and Lone Wolf did not use any subsidies or tax credits.

Hickey said he is not developing for the sake of development.

His aim is to demonstrate development that works with a city’s "existing urban fabric," thereby creating a cohesive community and avoiding additional sprawling strip malls.

"We’re pursuing what we’re doing not from the perspective of developers, but with the goals of land conservation and community-building," Hickey said. "We can have better designs and nicer designs that are healthier for people. We’re not interested in building buildings for the sake of building buildings, we’re in it to make a difference."

Smart urban designs mean less reliance on automobiles and a positive impact on community health.

Until now, Washougal hasn’t had as much development as other communities in Southwest Washington. In that sense, it still has an opportunity to grow into a nice small town, whereas others have lost that ability to salvage their downtowns, Hickey said.

"Our interest is in putting forth projects that demonstrate there is a way to work within the town, not create additional sprawl and additional places for people to drive and visit."

Green days

The building was designed in accordance with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

All byproducts from demolition are being recycled and the types of materials used in construction are either renewable or contain recycled materials.

It will be energy and water efficient, and the little details like operable windows that allow for natural ventilation, a public courtyard that provides open space and a water fountain in the courtyard that only operates when it’s raining, set the project apart, said Hickey, who grew up in Clark County and has lived in Washougal for 20 years.

Portland-based Walsh Construction Co. is building Washougal Town Square, which was designed by Portland-based Sienna Architecture Co.

The goal is not to target only Washougal’s affluent upper crust, Hickey said.

"We keep coming back to community building, and within that, we’re trying to cross the whole spectrum," he said. "When you go to an area that is vibrant, it caters to all income levels and has an organic feel. It caters to the entire community – not a single segment."

The residential component will provide a diversity of housing types and pricing.

Lone Wolf has applied for the project to be included in LEED for Neighborhood Developments, a pilot program through the U.S. Green Building Council, the Congress for New Urbanism and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The three organizations are partnering to develop a national set of standards for neighborhood location and design based on the combined principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building.

The rating will place emphasis on the elements that bring buildings together into a neighborhood, and relate the neighborhood to its larger region and landscape.

Being part of the pilot project will provide Lone Wolf with a regional and national platform to further serve as example of smart design and positive development.

Only 125 projects will be chosen nationwide, and Hickey said he expects to know by the end of May whether the project is picked.

What Hickey doesn’t want for Washougal is a transformation into "Anytown, USA."

"I think people are starting to realize they liked having their sense of community, their own individual town," he said. "That is part of the drive behind the project."

A downtown transformation

Hickey’s Town Square has served as a catalyst for a slew of other development downtown, both in public and private ventures.

In response to his desire to build downtown more than five years ago, the city dusted off a conceptual plan JD White prepared for it in the late 1990s and got on board to upgrade the downtown infrastructure, said Washougal Mayor Stacee Sellers.

The city is spending $6.5 million – $600,000 of which is from federal grants – to do a major rehaul on several downtown streets, widening sidewalks and adding underground utilities, water fountains, trees and bike racks.

Reflection Park is also getting a facelift with a new brick plaza and campanile tower that, at 70 feet tall, can be seen from Highway 14.

The city retained the following firms for the revitalization project: Portland-based landscape architect Christopher Freshley, Portland-based architect Gary Rommel of Rommel Architectural Partnership and Vancouver-based Wallis Engineering.

"We’re trying to create that synergy and downtown atmosphere that people want to go to," Sellers said. "We want it to be different than every other downtown in Southwest Washington. That is a big deal to us – we don’t want to be a Battle Ground or a Camas, we want to be unique."

The city also will extend 17th Street under Highway 14 for a pedestrian walkway connecting downtown to the waterfront. Funding has been secured with $2.5 million in state and federal grants. That project should wrap up by the end of 2008, said Jinger Jacobson, executive director of the Washougal Downtown Revitalization Implementation Committee. The seven-member board is a go-between for the city, businesses and developers.

The committee is partially funded by the city, but acts as its own nonprofit, not a branch of city government.

Pendleton Woolen Mills is in the conceptual design phase for an expanded outlet store and retail complex for its property on 17th Street. The "Pendleton Mill Village" will be compatible with other development downtown, said Charles Bishop, vice president in charge of the Mill Division.

Now seemed like the right time to look at the project because of the financial investment on the parts of Hickey and the city, he said.

"The community has grown quite a bit and I think it is projected to grow further," Bishop said. "I think the population will support additional development. How much and how quickly, I can’t say, but there is a definite need for services."

Development-savvy investors have begun buying property in the city center, including three building purchases by Red Paw Development, Jacobson said.

"I think they know what’s coming," she said.

Hickey said philosophically, he doesn’t believe in tax credits or subsidies for private development, but said Lone Wolf and the city of Washougal have worked quite cooperatively toward the same goal of a nice, sustainable community.

Sellers said the city looks favorably upon the private development because it will bring in retail sales tax.

"I, of course, think it’s wonderful," she said. "The city will see increased economic development and more retail sales tax, as well as creating a place with that ambiance of being able to walk downtown instead of being in your car."

Lone Wolf Development

Block 11: Washougal Town Square

• First floor: 22,500 square feet, primarily commercial and retail space

• Second floor: 25,000 square feet, professional office and studio space

• Underground parking

• Developer Wes Hickey is hoping for a mix of locally owned businesses that inspire community gathering, such as a coffee shop, florist or dance studio

Blocks 7, 8 and 9 will be done in phases, likely starting in 2008

Block 7

• First floor: retail

• Some live-work units

Block 8

• First floor: commercial space, Hickey is hoping for a specialty grocery

• Second floor: parking

• Third and fourth floors: townhouses

Block 9

• First floor: retail, possibly a restaurant

• Second floor: offices

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