Kennewick, Benton, Pasco Port Officials Offer Visions for Development

By Kristi Pihl, February 27, 2013, Tri-City Herald

Extending rail, expanding the Tri-Cities Airport and cleaning up the downtown Kennewick riverfront are among the projects Tri-City ports are developing to drive regional economic development.

Port officials from Pasco, Benton and Kennewick outlined their efforts Wednesday to about 330 people at the “State of the Ports” lunch hosted by the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Pasco Red Lion.

Roy Keck, Port of Benton commission president, said construction of the Washington State University Tri-Cities Wine Science Center is expected to begin this fall on land provided by the port at the Tri-Cities Research District in Richland.

And two new commercial buildings are under construction in the Richland Innovation Center, including one that will become Gesa Credit Union’s office, Keck said.

In Prosser, construction started last month on the $3.7 million Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center, he said.

The center’s goal is to tell the story of the state’s wine industry and honor Walter Clore, who worked at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research & Extension Center north of Prosser and helped prove that wine grapes would be a viable crop in the Columbia Valley. He died in 2003.

The Port of Pasco’s projects include the $35 million expansion of the Tri-Cities Airport terminal, which will double the size of the current terminal and expand everything from security to the concourse.

The number of passenger boardings has doubled since 1998, with most of that growth happening in the last six years, said Port of Pasco Commission President Jean Ryckman. Boardings are expected to double again in the next 20 years.

The terminal expansion can be paid for using airport revenue only, but that does mean delaying some other airport projects and bonding about $24 million, Ryckman said.

Outside of the airport, the port and the city of Pasco are bidding two miles of rail, one for Heritage Industrial Center off of “A” Street in Pasco, and the other to finish a rail project in Big Pasco Industrial Park, Ryckman said.

Across the river, the Port of Kennewick has bought 16 of the 28 acres on Columbia Drive between the cable bridge and Clover Island, said Commission President Skip Novakovich.

Some buildings have been or will be removed, and others may be repurposed, he said.

Remodeling the Oak Street Industrial Park incubator buildings in east Kennewick should be finished this fall, Novakovich said.

And the port still is looking for feedback on what the community wants to see happen with Kennewick’s Vista Field Airport, he said. A recently released draft study explores options for the small general aviation airport near the Three Rivers Convention Center.

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