Port of Longview hires firm to help navigate Barlow Point development

By Shari Phiel, June 20, 2014, The Daily News

The Port of Longview hired a contractor this month to help it develop Barlow Point, one of the last large, undeveloped industrial sites left on the Columbia River and the West Coast.


Since buying the land in late 2010 for $2.45 million, the prime industrial site has sat idle as the port considered potential uses.


At a meeting last month, three engineering firms gave port commissioners presentations on various ways to use the site. They hired Seattle-based KPFF.


“Right out of the chute, KPFF seemed like the winner to me. It seemed like they knocked it out of the park. They gave me ideas I had never thought of; it was enlightening,” Commissioner Bob Bagaason said.


“They came with their ‘A’ game,” Commissioner Darold Dietz added.


Rather than specify a particular type of business or industry, the port commissioners wanted to see what the firms potentially could do with the property, how many different types of industries could fit, what they would do given certain assumptions (the completion of improvements on State Route 432, for example), and other challenges.


“The board wanted to see one or two high-level concepts from each consulting firm to see if they had the capability to develop concepts in the master plan. Basically, the presentations were proposals to sell their services,” said port spokeswoman Amy Fischer.


Among the things the commissioners and port staff asked the firms to look at were rail and roadway access, facility types and locations, waterfront (berths) development, public access and realignment of the main entrance.


“It wasn’t cargo specific, it was facility-aligned types of things — liquids, bulk, things like that,” said Lisa Hendriksen, planning director for the port.


Now that an engineering firm has been selected, Hendriksen said, the port can develop a work plan. That includes environmental and utility infrastructure planning needed to attract tenants to the site. Completing that work could take up to 18 months.


Ashley Helenberg, public affairs manager for the port, said finding tenants for the property shouldn’t be difficult.


“We’ve had a lot of prospective tenants express interest in that property, but without some of this pre-planning it’s not feasible right now,” she said.


Not everyone was on board with the commissioners’ decision. Longview resident Diane Dick suggested the port not hire any of the three firms at this time.


“I think you would have to go to the public and ask what the public envisions for Barlow Point,” she said.


Dick said she was surprised all of the presentations assumed the SR 432 improvements would be done in time for the property to be developed.


“That’s not going to be completed for a very long time at the rate it’s going,” Dick said.


John Green of Longview agreed and also urged the commissioners to look for sustainable development.


“Extraction industries are up and down like a yo-yo. I urge caution when you’re talking about extraction industries, especially oil, gas and so on,” Green said.

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