Kristi Pihl, September 28, 2013, Tri-City Herald
The beginnings of a new wine-inspired development soon may emerge on Kennewick’s Columbia Drive to jump-start a long-range plan to redevelop the city’s riverfront.
After years of collaboration, Port of Kennewick commissioners and Kennewick city councilmen will meet Tuesday to start discussions on whether they are willing to write checks to spark Columbia Drive redevelopment.
Part of the discussion will focus on a central piece of Columbia Drive owned by the port called Columbia Gardens.
It includes two buildings at 211 and 421 Columbia Drive the port may consider remodeling to allow boutique wineries to start producing wine.
Plans for Columbia Gardens also will tie into plans for the Willows, which once was a mobile home park next to Clover Island Drive. It may become a wine village with restaurants, retail, tasting rooms, boutique wineries and some residential options.
Recent growth in the local wine industry could help create more demand for the wine village, officials say.
Last year marked Washington’s largest wine grape harvest yet, and Washington vineyards may break that record this year.
The Kennewick Irrigation District is bringing Yakima River water to prime wine grape growing land on Red Mountain as soon as next summer.
The Wine Science Center, where the next generation of wine makers may learn their trade, broke ground earlier this week at Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland.
And next year, the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau hopes to hire a new employee to focus on wine tourism.
That all combines into a competitive advantage that Columbia Drive can build on, said Tana Bader Inglima, the port’s director of governmental affairs and marketing.
In the past six years, the port has bought about 16 of the 28 acres on the north side of Columbia Drive between the cable bridge and Clover Island Drive. Buildings have been taken down, making room for the area’s future.
The port has invested about $5.2 million in capital expenses for the revitalization of Columbia Drive, according to port documents.
The port now owns three contiguous parcels along Columbia Drive, including the Willows, a 6.7-acre property, Columbia Gardens, a 5.9-acre chunk in the middle of Columbia Drive that used to be the home of Beaver Furniture and the Chieftain Apartments, and 3.2 acres just west of the cable bridge that used to be Cable Green’s Mini Golf.
On Monday, local residents who were invited to help form the vision for Columbia Drive will meet with architect Gary Black from the University of California, Berkeley, to see new developments, Bader Inglima said.
Their feedback is among the information Black will take to the joint meeting of the city councilmen and port commissioners Tuesday as part of his presentation on wine village plans. The port and city will meet 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Clover Island Inn, on the fourth floor, to begin discussions.
The public also will get a chance to see 3-D models of the wine village proposal, Bader Inglima said.
The redevelopment efforts on Columbia Drive have the chance to spur economic development, enhance the quality of life and further Columbia Drive’s connection to downtown Kennewick, said Evelyn Lusignan, Kennewick’s customer service manager. And the project addresses an area of town with past public safety issues.
If it is something the city decides to move forward with, officials will work on a development agreement to lay out what the city and the port will do to attract businesses, Lusignan said.
Among the improvements being considered is a wine effluent treatment system to treat winery process water that officials say is necessary to attract wineries.
Port officials traveled to San Luis Obispo, Calif., last week to check out winery effluent treatment systems.
Wineries have expressed interest at moving to Columbia Drive, Bader Inglima said. But the city and port still needed to resolve the effluent issue, because it’s hard for city waste water systems to handle the suspended solids and pH levels in grape waste.
The cost for such a system has not yet been determined.
Having the system in place could help attract start-up wineries because of the expense of putting in their own treatment systems, she said. And the system can be camouflaged, potentially hidden in a building or underground, Lusignan said.
Larry Peterson, the port’s director of planning and development, said Columbia Drive would not compete with the former Tri-City Raceway, where the port and West Richland are considering a wine development with an effluent treatment facility.
Instead, Columbia Drive would focus on urban boutique wineries with tasting rooms, rather than large production wineries, he said.
Other infrastructure improvements may include extending the trail around Duffy’s Pond that the city and port have partnered on already and landscaping along Columbia Drive.
Columbia Drive could become a place where people can shop, taste wine and have dinner, Lusignan said. And it would feature wine produced within city limits.
Peterson said they need to have some anchor businesses to help attract private development.
“This is the catalyst that gets the redevelopment of Columbia Drive moving,” Peterson said.