Port of Camas-Washougal ramps up for more development

The Port held its annual “Lunch with Dave” event last week, updating attendees on projects

Roy Kim
Roy Kim, co-owner of RKm Development, presented some information about himself and his company at the annual “Lunch with Dave” event. RKm Development will spearhead the waterfront project at Parkers Landing at the Port of Camas-Washougal. Courtesy of Zane Vorenberg

If you hear the sounds of busy construction to Vancouver’s east, it may well be the Port of Camas-Washougal.

Lunch with David Ripp
David Ripp, CEO of the Port of Camas-Washougal, chatted with community members who attended the annual “Lunch with Dave” event last week. The event featured an update on construction and projects for the coming years at the Port. Courtesy of Zane Vorenberg

The Port held its ninth annual “Lunch with Dave” event last week, featuring an update on construction and projects for the coming few years from Port Chief Executive Officer David Ripp. Some of those projects include a new building for the Steigerwald Commerce Center, dock and building maintenance, land sales, levee work and the beginnings of the new waterfront development at the Port’s Parkers Landing.

“One thing the commission agreed to do is sell land,” Ripp said. “We don’t always sell property, but the Port decided to do that and keep 75% for ourselves. So, there are six acres we’re willing to sell.”

Sale of the parcels at the Steigerwald Commerce Center will help fund other work at the Port, he said.

The Port also recently finished work on Building 18 at Steigerwald and has completely leased the building out already. The final company coming in, who Ripp did not want to name, is a high tech and manufacturing business looking at 6,600 square feet of space.

“Starting out from that, there will be five new jobs,” Ripp said, adding that the business is likely to expand with more later.

Since everything is leased, the Port plans to start work on another 50,000-square-foot building at the site, Building 19, in 2021. Cost is hard to determine, and it depends on what kind of grants and other funding the Port can get, but Building 18, which had a similar lot, cost about $2.5 million, Ripp said.

The Port of Camas-Washougal was founded in 1935 through a popular vote.

Since Ripp joined as CEO in 2008, the Port has experienced 87% growth, with more than 123,000 square feet of new building space opening to accommodate 19 business, with more on the way. Prior to coming to the Port of Camas-Washougal, Ripp worked for the Port of Woodland, where he was born and raised.

Already this year the Port of Camas-Washougal has finished construction on a new Natural Play Area at the site, which opened on June 7 to a host of excited local kids and families, Ripp said.

“It’s doing exactly what we wanted,” Ripp said. “It’s bringing people to our community, to the Port, it’s very exciting. I saw lots of kids climbing on the rocks.”

Other areas of development include the marina, airport and industrial park. This year, the Port plans to rehabilitate the marina’s J dock, and to design and permit a breakwater. The airport will get upgraded fuel terminals, the AP-6 building will be remodeled, and roof seating for B-row and D-row will be added to the hangars. The taxiway next to the runway on the south side will also be sealed.

At the industrial park, the Port plans to seal and paint the exterior of Building 7 and to seal and coat the parking lot around it. The Port also plans work on the Steigerwald Levee, cleaning and grading the waterfront stockpile and revitalizing the waterfront.

The Port also plans to work on a levee to cross Highway 14. The goal of the project is to let the landscape return to historic flood plain behavior and remove an elevated channel system for fish that was not working and causes problems with the Port’s stormwater system. That project is slated to cost $20 million, begin in 2020 and is set for completion in 2021.

“They’re basically going to remove a section of the levee, which will decrease in size to the north,” Ripp said. “With the fish bypass failure, it’s like trying to drain a tub while you still have the water running. This will give us less levy to maintain and also gets rid of that problem.”

The levee will also tie into the Friends of Columbia Gorge trail project that stretches around the area.

Attendees at the event included city representatives from Camas and Washougal, members of the Camas Washougal Aircraft Association, council members, a credit union officer, a representative from Best Western Hotels and several community members.

Ripp said the event has grown quite a bit since it began nine years ago.

“The first time we did this, we had four people, now we have 25,” Ripp said. “We have a lot going on.”

RKm Development spearheads waterfront project
The waterfront project at Parkers Landing drew significant interest from the crowd. The Port has been looking at a selection of various concepts from RKm Development, which will spearhead the project.

“We talked about having a festival street where you can shut off both ends and have a farmers’ market or street fair,” Ripp said.

RKm Development was selected to develop the 35-acre Parkers Landing site this June, and co-owner Roy Kim came to the lunch meeting to present the community with some information about himself and his company.

Kim, who owns the business with his wife, has a background in civil engineering and construction. He moved to Oregon from San Francisco in 1991 to work on his first major project, Bethany Village in Washington County, off Highway 26. RKm still manages the project and has been adding to the development for a few decades. The development includes apartment units, a grocery store, townhomes, condos, office buildings and an athletic club, among other amenities.

“It’s mixed, purposefully integrated, connected and cross marketed,” Kim said of the project. 

The development also includes the ability to close off streets and hold public events or street fairs. 

More recently, in 2015, RKm was selected to build a $30 million economic center for Rockwood and Gresham. The site was deeply impacted by the 2008 recession and has had issues with poverty, crime and theft. The goal of that project is to create an economic engine, give residents a community meeting area and give area children a place to play. Partially complete, when finished it will include apartments, an industrial building for workforce development, a bakery, a Market Hall with space for stalls, booths and four ethnic grocery stores. All the buildings also use solar panels.

Kim said the Parkers Landing site will be designed like the others using community input and guidance.

“We don’t come in with a formula,” Kim said. “We come with a blank slate, because I think every project should be customized. We’re meeting with community members now and talking about master plans.”

RKm has 370 employees, although several are part-time workers at the Bethany athletic club and its senior housing, because RKm continues to manage the development, he added.

After the company completes its research on the economic situation in Camas and Washougal, it will create an economic impact assessment of the project’s potential.

Right now, the concept is in the very early stages, Kim said.

“We tried to keep it as simple as possible and not focus too much on the details,” Kim said. “We know the views are amazing. The marina and waterfront are an asset. We need to connect the two downtowns so they’re not disjointed, and our businesses need to be able to work together so they’re complimentary.”

The company is also looking at historic photos and looking to incorporate historical elements into the development.

“We also want to design smart and sustainable,” Kim said. “We want to make sure that this works five, 10, 15 years from now, and that’s its energy efficient and technologically efficient.”