Barberton realizes potential

Developments emphasize industrial and ‘incubator’ space

It seems Clark County was on the right track when it identified Barberton as a prime location for light industrial development and business parks. Since the beginning of the year, more than 500,000 square feet of industrial space in 22 buildings on about 44 acres has been proposed as part of three separate projects in the Barberton area.

Barberton straddles St. Johns Road across Interstate 205 in Vancouver’s urban growth area.  As part of an Economic Development Action Plan about two years ago, Clark County decided it needed to focus its planning and investments where there is the best potential for development and job growth.

"The county has identified a number of areas that they want to emphasize," said county planner Bill Higbie. "Barberton is one of them."

Barberton was chosen for its access to transportation, existing and planned development and available land. The county hopes to pave the way for economic development there over the next 10 years by moving forward with infrastructure improvements and facilitating development proposals.

County transportation planner Mike Mabrey said construction will begin over the next two years on improvements to St. Johns Road, Northeast 72nd Avenue and Northeast 88th Street at a cost of more than $40 million.

These projects, along with a number of others on the drawing board "are consistent with the county’s goal to encourage economic development," said Higbie.

Developers follow the infrastructure, he said, and will go elsewhere to find it.

"By providing this service," he said, "it makes it easier for the developer by expediting the process."

Several business parks already exist in the area, such as the 192,000-square-foot North Park Industrial Center and 128,000-square-foot Opus/205 Distribution Center, built in 2000 and 2002, respectively.  And the area is home to a variety of businesses, including Stein Distributing, nLight Photonics, Prairie Electric and retailers Costco and Home Depot.

The county has identified 500 acres of developable land in the Barberton area that has the capacity for 14,000 new jobs.

Earlier this year, Genteel Investments LLC proposed the 43rd Avenue Industrial Business Park, consisting of three light industrial buildings totaling 49,950 square feet on more than 6 acres. The property is just south of St. Johns and a short-line railroad that runs through the Barberton area. Vancouver’s Colf Construction is the project’s contractor. Company owner Robert Colf is a partner in Genteel Investments.

Like much of the land in the project area, the development site is considered underutilized, said Roy Heikkala, Colf project manager, because it includes single-family homes on large pieces of land. The project is estimated to support up to 50 employees.

Heikkala expects construction would begin as soon as the development is approved and would be built out as the market demands.

The buildings are designed as "incubator" space, said Heikkala, with tenants occupying about 3,000 square feet.

"There is a need for this type of building," he said. "It’s a good fit."

A regional stormwater facility is included in the site plan with the capacity to collect stormwater from up to 28 acres, which could help spur development on surrounding sites.

Just across the street on St. Johns, a 376,750-square-foot business park has been proposed by Lindco Development. Padden Parkway Business Park would include 10 buildings on the nearly 19-acre site. The project would be built over several phases.

The land is currently vacant and the completed project could employ up to 170 people.

Further up the St. Johns corridor, an industrial park has been proposed on 88th Street. The project includes 164,030 square feet in two commercial buildings and seven industrial buildings on nearly 19 acres. The project is in the pre-application phase.

These projects tend to reflect the type of development the county would like to see in Barberton. And while infrastructure improvements can allow for shortened construction periods, an area developers would like to see expedited is the permitting process.

"The best way the county can support (proposed developments) is to determine if they meet the goals the county has set and recommend approval," said Krys Ochia, the county’s east urban team leader.

Much of the developable land has been zoned for business parks, as they have the greatest potential to provide high-wage jobs and better integrate into existing communities, said county officials. The zoning also reflects the market moving from manufacturing to knowledge-based industries.