By Kristi Pihl, September 10, 2014, Tri-City Herald
The cost to close Kennewick’s former Vista Field Airport may be only one-third of what consultants estimated.
The Port of Kennewick has spent about $917,000 since the commission decided to close the former airport near the Three Rivers Convention Center in April 2013, port commissioners were told Tuesday.
Closure costs were estimated at about $3 million, including $1 million set aside for litigation.
The $917,000 spent so far includes repaying state aviation grants, contracted obligations with existing tenants, removing underground fuel tanks and soil, and painting X’s on the runway, said Larry Peterson, the port’s director of planning and development.
There was some concern about environmental hazards, but Peterson said the only hazards found were the underground fuel tanks and less than a dump truck full of dirt contaminated by fuel spills, which has been removed.
The port still needs to demolish the former fixed-based operator building, which includes removing about $5,000 worth of asbestos, he said.
The T-hangar buildings also need to be removed, but the scrap metal value may be more than the cost for a contractor to remove the buildings.
So far, the port has committed $520,000 for redevelopment, Peterson said. Most of that will cover the master planning process the port is working through with consultant Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co.
Peterson said the port has spent about $71,000 of the up to $383,000 that was approved for master planning, including finding ways to pay for the project.
Total redevelopment costs have been estimated at $8.1 million for infrastructure improvements such as roads, sidewalks and parks.
Port officials hope to make the overall 113-acre site into a regional town center that connects to the Three Rivers Entertainment District and the Columbia Center mall. Initial ideas include a mix of uses, including public spaces, offices and commercial buildings, retail and condos.
Port of Kennewick commissioners unanimously agreed to sell about 94 acres in the Plymouth Industrial Area to AgriNorthwest for $265,000.
The property north of Christie Road and south of the BNSF Railway Co. main line does not include any property on the nearby island, Peterson said.
AgriNorthwest already has a complex to the west, where there is grain storage, a fertilizer facility and a seed operation.
The port has owned the property since 1969 and officials then had thought it could be used for barges with some dredging, Peterson said. However, environmental regulations have changed, particularly with protecting salmon, making that no longer a viable option.