Ty Beaver, May 18, 2015, Tri-City Herald
The public called for a compact, locally controlled urban center for the closed Vista Field airport site, and that’s exactly what the Port of Kennewick is being asked to do.
The task force formed to advise the port on the redevelopment of Vista Field made its final recommendations Monday. It nearly unanimously approved key elements distilled from months of public hearings and workshops.
Concerns about how future traffic demands would be considered and how much control the port would retain over the project were also brought up at Monday’s meeting.
Some asked if there was something the port could do on the project soon to keep the community interested.
“We’re not putting any shovels in the ground until we have the money to do it,” said Don Britain, Kennewick councilman and vice chairman of the task force.
But task force members and officials were optimistic about what Vista Field could come to represent in the future and were confident their recommendations would help lead the way.
“This is bigger than all of us,” said task force member Justin Raffa. “To be able to plan for the future is amazing.”
The goal is to redevelop the roughly 100-acre property into a mixed-use development with retail, commercial, offices, public spaces and living options.
The five goals outlined by the task force are:
- Develop an urban center.
- Use the “new urbanism” concept, which calls for mixed land-use, walkability and more transportation options.
- Strive for efficiency, such as using the existing runway as roads.
- Be managed by the port.
- Ensure the public’s vision is accomplished through cooperation between the port and the city.
The urban center idea led to hesitation from Carl Adrian, executive director of the Tri-City Development Council. He said he is sensitive to anything that could negatively detract from other commercial centers in the area and was the sole “no” vote on that element.
Port officials noted that they and their successors will take on a long and arduous task with the airport’s redevelopment. Whether the port would want to manage each individual construction project or be willing to consider selling the entire project to a developer who promises to stick with the port’s plans was raised.
Kris Watkins, president and CEO of Visit Tri-Cities, called attention to the “new urbanism” concept and how it could lead to narrow streets that would struggle to funnel traffic from a large coliseum that could some day replace the Toyota Center.
“I just want to make sure we don’t limit ourselves 10 years down the road,” she said.
Issues such as traffic and regulations for new businesses and construction will present themselves regardless of whether Vista Field is developed or not, said Larry Peterson, the port’s director of planning and development.
So long as the port sticks with the recommendations, the port and public will be able to adapt the project to its needs, he said.
“We have an opportunity for something unique here,” Peterson said.