Tri-Cities commercial and industrial building back on track

You can’t drive very far around the Tri-Cities without seeing new buildings rising, backhoes leveling land or tell cranes moving steel beams into place.

The new Fairchild 12-plex movie theater opened last week in Richland’s Queensgate shopping area. In Kennewick, Kadlec has started construction on a new primary care clinic and in Pasco, a new 121-room Hampton Inn is under construction.

Through November of 2015, the City of Pasco has issued more than 380 commercial and industrial building permits worth nearly $82 million. When you add in the residential projects, the city has issued 1991 building permits worth $158 million.

But, as Rick White, the city’s community and economic development director pointed out, while healthy, those numbers really aren’t extraordinary.

“If I look at this year and last year, and almost all the years in the 2000s, they are remarkably consistent,” he said.

There were a few high years, he admitted, referring to the Road 68 housing boom in the early 2000s, but those weren’t sustainable, he said.

What is happening now, he explained, is commercial development and residential growth that is steady and reasonable. And he’s very happy about that.

“It has settled into what I think is normal for Pasco,” White said. “You can plan ahead and make sure those new homes have services that are being paid for by the taxes they generate.”

The industrial and commercial projects that were added this year will help boost that tax revenue and vitality in the city, said Dave McDonald, Pasco’s city planner.

Like Grimmway Farm’s carrot processing plant, which quietly sprouted up on 30 acres off Dietrich Road in 2013,

Initially, the California-based company built just a small plant to wash and clean the carrots, which were then hauled to California for processing and packaging. This year, the company invested about $6 million more into the facility, allowing it to process and package the carrots in Pasco, McDonald said.

“So that’s more jobs and more value added to the product here,” he said.

Other large industrial and commercial projects in Pasco include Kenyon Zero Storage’s $17.2 million expansion of its chilled warehouse in the Pasco Processing Center and McCurley’s new Subaru dealership under construction at 9620 Sandifur Parkway.

McDonald said there are several good projects that are just getting underway, as well, that will get the city off to a good start in 2016. That includes an addition to the Holiday Inn Express at TRAC, which will add 40 rooms to the hotel.

White said the city is also embark on a pretty significant planning effort at Road 100, preparing about 1,000 acres for development in the area.

“There are will be a good choice of lots coming online next year, so I think we will be up in housing starts,” White said.

The city of Richland has issued 170 commercial building permits this year, worth a total of nearly $146 million. That’s about $20 million less in valuation than 2014. However, the $115 million 455,000-sq.-ft. Preferred Freezer Services building was under construction during 2014.

There’s plenty of new construction happening throughout Richland, from a $6.1 million lab and testing facility at Lamb Weston at 2011 Saint St., to an 82-room luxury boutique hotel at Columbia and a new 8,000-sq.-ft. restaurant, Lu Lu Craft Bar + Kitchen at Columbia Point.

Kennewick has also experienced robust commercial construction this year, issuing nearly 250 commercial building permits.

Among the prominent projects is the Fieldstone Assisted Living facility at 7215 W. Grandridge Blvd., Boulder Heights Plaza in Southridge, and several new schools.

In addition to robust construction activity, commercial leasing has also been busy.

“My leasing activity in the past two years has been wonderful,” said Greg Markel, of Washington Securities & Investment Company. “It seems like there are more private, small businesses looking, instead of corporate.”

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