Bringing urban vitality to Vancouver’s waterfront

The transformation of Port of Vancouver's Terminal 1 could be underway by as early as the end of the year

Katy Brooks

The Port of Vancouver USA, with its long history and distinctive role, has contributed much to the economic well-being and heritage of our great community. But perhaps no contribution over the past 103 years is as central to that as a strategic piece of property on the Columbia River: 13 acres next to the Interstate 5 Bridge that will soon be reincarnated as the port’s waterfront project.

The site, known as Terminal 1, is our birthplace – and it’s poised for revitalization. This prime waterfront property serves as the main entrance to the state of Washington from all points south and is situated between a high-end commercial and residential development planned by Columbia Waterfront LLC, a new city of Vancouver waterfront park and a vibrant downtown core.

The port has been partnering with the city of Vancouver and Columbia Waterfront LLC for a decade to lay the groundwork – parcels, roads, rail lines and utilities – for creation of a vibrant new community on the waterfront. The development will soon be home to jobs, restaurants, shops, housing, a hotel and a 7-acre public park.

The port’s development at Terminal 1 will complement these efforts by the city and Columbia Waterfront LLC. Our goal is to create a place where the community gathers to connect to the waterfront and find their bearings along miles of parks and paths at the riverside, then back to downtown Vancouver. We are exploring exciting ways to incorporate our history by redeveloping the existing Terminal 1 docks and structure into a public market. This, coupled with a new hotel, connection of the east and west portions of the city’s waterfront park and flexible public spaces, and relocating the port’s headquarters as one of the first commercial properties will bring life to the east end of the waterfront development and a truly public urban waterfront experience.

We’ve hired NBBJ, a talented urban design firm, which has teamed with local consultants Leland Consulting Group and Walker Macy to work with us through the development of a master plan for the site. We know how important this property is to our community, and we want to make sure what we build makes sense, fits community needs and harmonizes with the existing built and natural environments. Our intent is to build a waterfront experience that is a regional draw while holding true to what is uniquely Vancouver USA.

Though construction on infrastructure at the waterfront has been ongoing since fall 2014, the port’s waterfront project is still in its early stages. We’ll be asking for input along the way, all the while keeping in view five guiding principles from our elected commission:

  • Provide public access to the Columbia River waterfront
  • Develop public assets in a financially responsible manner
  • Utilize sustainable development practices
  • Interpret the port’s history as an economic engine for Southwest Washington
  • Create a development that supports the community through economic growth and job creation

Work has begun on the master planning process. Over the next three months, our consulting team will conduct significant outreach to the community as it forms initial design options. We’ll continue working with our consultant, stakeholders, local partners and the community as we move through the entire master planning process this summer and fall. Construction at Terminal 1 could begin as early as the end of this year.

Katy Brooks is the director of economic development at the Port of Vancouver USA.

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