Group Talks to Port of Kennewick Commissioners About Ideas for Vista Field

By Kristi Pihl, August 13, 2013, Tri-City Herald

An air traffic control tower featuring a restaurant at the top, a dog park and a water feature are among the ideas dreamed up for Vista Field Airport’s replacement by members of the Young Professionals of Tri-Cities.

Jason Hogue told Port of Kennewick commissioners Tuesday that the business networking group wants to see Vista Field become something that will help attract and retain young professionals.

The port commission unanimously decided to close the general aviation airport near the Three Rivers Convention Center earlier this year. The airport officially closes Dec. 31.

Now, the commission needs to consider creating a citizens advisory committee or some other form of community outreach to help with the redevelopment planning, said Tim Arntzen, the port’s executive director. No decision was made on that issue.

Hogue told commissioners that the networking group would like to see a mixed development where people can live, work and play. And it should be vibrant, unique and easily accessible.

“There is a great opportunity here to do something that hasn’t been done in this area,” he said.

Walkability is key, Hogue said, suggesting the port consider making the development pedestrian only, with parking on the outside of the almost 113 acres.

Night life could include a performing arts center, bowling, wine bar or rock climbing, Hogue said.

Also vital is having design guidelines and sign ordinances that would keep the area appealing, he said.

The young professionals group also supported the recommendation of consultant Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. of Portland to tie the redevelopment into the existing Toyota Center, Three Rivers Convention Center and Columbia Center mall, he said.

The project could open up 75 acres for the potential construction of more than 1 million square feet of retail, commercial, office and industrial buildings, according to a recent report. There also could be 1,400 condos or apartments on top of mixed-use buildings.

Port staff already have started work on closing the airport, including discussing grant repayments with the Washington State Department of Transportation. Arntzen told commissioners that the agency seems to have agreed to not charge the port interest on the grants.

The port also is beginning the process of buying a hangar owned by local businessman Mike Shannon. The port’s decision to close Vista Field came after they rejected a proposal from Shannon to be the airport’s fixed-based operator in June 2012. Port officials said then that they and Shannon were too far apart to continue negotiations.

Arntzen said the port is having an appraisal done to help determine price. A contract with Shannon requires the port and Shannon to agree on a price, or for the port to pay an average of two appraisals, one paid for by Shannon and one paid by the port.


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