Washougal attracts downtown commercial development

Innovative downtown development in Washougal is finally following the explosive residential growth the city has seen in recent years.

Between 2000 and 2004, single-family housing permits jumped more than 700 percent from 41 to 338. And as the residential population continues to grow, the city is beginning to see some investment downtown.

A mixed-use project proposed for Washougal’s historic downtown district encompasses an entire block between A and B streets and 17th and 18th streets. The proposal, in pre-application with the city’s planning and development department, calls for a two story, retail/office building with underground parking.

The 44,000-square-foot project is planned by Washougal-based Lone Wolf Development. The company also owns a single story office building immediately north of the proposed site and adjacent to the city’s Reflection Park. Pendleton Woolen Mills is immediately south of the site. Wes Hickey is named as the owner, but declined to comment on the project. The property now houses a vacant Thriftway store in its southern portion and a Mexican restaurant in the northeast corner, which would be demolished to make way for the project.

Lone Wolf Development envisions the ground floor as commercial/retail specialty shops with office space on the second floor, according to its application. Parking beneath the ground level could be accessed from A Street, as the property slopes up toward B Street.A plaza with seating, dining areas and water features would be incorporated in the center of the project with an open entrance at the corner of 17th and A streets. According to the application, the building materials would emphasize sustainable design with the intent of achieving LEED accreditation.

Mitch Kneipp, senior planner for Washougal said the project has the potential to “bring businesses and people back to downtown.”

Kneipp sees this as a project that could get the ball rolling in terms of attracting further commercial development.

“This project – in and of itself – could kick-start a lot of it,” he said.

Another project currently being reviewed by the city is the Green Arbor office building. The project includes the construction of a two-story, 4,652-square-foot office building at the corner of 15th and A streets. The building will accommodate Washougal-based NextNet Investments and its subsidiaries Green Arbor Development, Air Speed Internet and Pacific LightNet, based in Hawaii. The companies currently occupy the former Wells Fargo building on B Street. Between 10 and 15 employees will work in the building. Construction is expected to begin in October on the project that has been planned since March.

The Green Arbor site greets those entering Washougal from SR 14. The property currently is occupied by a home that will be demolished prior to construction. Jinger Jacobson, project coordinator for the company, said their project could help build the commercial base of the city.

“We are hoping that is the case,” said Jinger. “Washougal is prime for commercial and retail growth to follow the residential development.”

Washougal implemented a downtown revitalization plan in 2002, and has begun to implement improvements to its streetscapes. The plan calls for the downtown core to be a dense, pedestrian-friendly, unified area with a common design theme that provides a mix of retail, commercial, residential and municipal services. Furthermore, the city designed the plan to discourage strip commercial development downtown and limit the availability of the type of commercial land that invites strip development.

Director of Planning and Development Joanne Boys said Washougal does not want to attract big-box retailers, instead they hope to focus on locally owned businesses, the arts and specialty retail locations to “create a destination for people in Washougal.”