Brainstorming the waterfront’s future

Port of Vancouver making plans, taking community input on redevelopment of Terminal 1 site

By Shelby Sebens, May 31, 2015, The Columbian


From Sunday morning music and art along an extended walkway to highlighted historical preservation, visions to revitalize the Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 1 waterfront property are beginning to take shape.


“Everything’s on the table at this point,” said John Savo, principal of Seattle-based consulting group NBBJ, during a brainstorming workshop Tuesday at the Port of Vancouver commission’s meeting.


The port has hired NBBJ for up to $300,000 to write a master plan outlining potential commercial, retail and public uses at the 13-acre downtown waterfront site between Columbia and Esther streets.


The workshop, which included NBBJ staffers, commissioners and community members, was a bit of a “brain dump,” in Salvo’s words — a conversation about what type of transformation the commissioners and the public would like to see at the Port’s Terminal 1 property.


The workshop was the first in a planned series of public input meetings aimed at completing a master plan for the property by late fall. While the three commissioners want NBBJ to come back with a “menu of choices,” their direction was clear. The port wants the site plan to include both commercially viable and new improvements, as well as a nod to the historical value of the site.


“It’s mainly a place of both the past and future coming together to help tell the story of Vancouver,” Savo said, summing up input from the workshop and previous meetings with community stakeholders.


The port has also hired Leland Consulting Group of Portland for a contract not to exceed $250,000 to help develop a mixed-use building at Terminal 1. The new structure is to include space for Red Lion Hotels Corp., which now operates the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay at the port-owned site. The port is meeting with Red Lion to negotiate a new financial agreement.


Commissioner Nancy Baker said highlighting and preserving the waterfront’s historical value should be high on the list of priorities for the site. She noted towns that include historical sites and knowledge tend to draw more interest from tourists.


“You realize what happened here, and that was very important at that time,” she said. “We need to maintain those type of things.”


More information about a market analysis for the project and initial development concepts will be presented at the commissioners’ June 18 board meeting. A public workshop on that date is set from noon to 1:30 workshop at the commission’s offices, 3103 N.W Lower River Road, Vancouver.


Access, connectivity

Major goals of the project are improving access to the waterfront and connecting it with downtown Vancouver by finding ways to work with natural and man-made dividers, such as the railroad berm.


Consultants showed pictures of features from other city waterfronts, from the giant bean at Millennium Park in Chicago to berms transformed into greenwalls and sun-filled walkways between shops and restaurants at Granville Island in Vancouver, B.C.


The idea of making the berm more attractive caught Baker’s attention and reminded her of a time when a woman came to a port meeting, suggesting they put lights and a waterfall on it.


“We all thought she was crazy and the more I think about it, the more I think that wasn’t such a bad, crazy idea,” she said. “It would be wonderful if we could make something like that happen on the berm.”


Audience members and officials noted how unwelcoming the I-5 entrance to Vancouver, the gateway to the city and to the state of Washington, can be.


Port Executive Director Todd Coleman said it’s important to create “that idea of connectivity, that when you see this place, which is the entrance to our state and our community, it makes you want to go to the Convention Center at the Hilton. It makes you want to go to Fort Vancouver, to Beaches.”


Baker emphasized that she doesn’t want the property to exclude anyone.


“I want this whole community to feel comfortable when they come to the waterfront. I do not want it to be another neighborhood,” she said. “I don’t want this piece of property to be somebody’s neighborhood. I want it to be the community’s neighborhood.”


Community input

Commissioner Jerry Oliver said he wants to ensure that public input is included in the process. The commissioners took comments from the audience at the workshop and plan to hold an open house for the public from 5 to 8 p.m. July 15 at the amphitheater on the site. The port will also launch a community survey online at an undetermined date.


Nancy Schultz of Vancouver requested a grocery store on the property.


“We live in a food desert,” she said. “I don’t know where people shop if you don’t have a car.”


Carrie Parks of Vancouver said she would like to see a free-speech zone and public art on display along a walkway.


“Put some art in there,” she said. “That makes it fun to walk along there and give you motivation to keep going.”


Oliver emphasized to NBBJ that this should not only be a public asset but also an economic driver for the port.


Port officials said they want to also ensure the Terminal 1 improvements compliment other city parks and projects, as well as Tualatin, Ore.-based Gramor Development’s plan for a $1.3 billion commercial-residential redevelopment of Vancouver’s 32-acre waterfront that looks to include a hotel and a mixed-use building with retail, housing and office space.


Gramor president Barry Cain, who attended the workshop, said he looks forward to the port’s plans and its chance to improve public space.


“We want you to be economically successful just like we want ourselves to be, but you have some opportunities there that we don’t have,” he said. “Together, we can really make this a great waterfront.”


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