Demand for development swells in Kennewick

Kennewick continues to grow as the Southridge area flourishes and new residential and commercial construction projects take shape throughout the city.

Projects under permit review that likely will start at the end of this year or the beginning of 2018 include a 10-screen movie theater on South Quillan Street, a 53,750-square-foot Gensco Inc. building for heating, ventilation and air conditioning products, and improvements at the 86,000-square-foot Amistad Elementary School.

Other upcoming projects include a 113-acre mixed-use development at Vista Field; Center Park, a mixed-use commercial lower-level and upper- level apartment building; a 13,850-square-foot International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall on Edison Street, just south of Clearwater Avenue; a 64,584-square-foot, four-story, 93-unit Comfort Suites on Plaza Way; and Kennewick Dental, a 10,700-square-foot office.

“Economic development in Kennewick is going great. It’s very busy and going very well,” said Terry Walsh, executive director of employee and community relations for the city of Kennewick.

Kennewick, population 80,280, grew 1.5 percent in the past year, but from 2000-17, it recorded 46.6 percent growth, adding 25,529 new residents.

New commercial permits issued from January through July 2017 totaled 22, valued at $23.6 million, down from 44 valued at $35.4 million, during the same period in 2016.

“I think by the end of 2017, the commercial permits will be close to the 2016 numbers. Inquiries regarding new construction projects have remained strong, so we anticipate the current rate of construction to continue into 2018,” said Wes Romine, the city’s development services manager.

Recently completed commercial development includes six projects in the Southridge area: The Original Pancake House, Taco Bell, Chinook Middle School, Sage Crest Elementary School, 27th and Williams Commercial Building and Hampton Inn.

“We have added 100-plus residential lots to this area in 2017, and several new commercial projects,” Romine said.

In other parts of the city, seven major projects – ranging from apartment buildings to schools and restaurants and medical buildings – recently were completed.

“(City officials) attend the International Conference of Shopping Centers to recruit developers for projects. In economically-challenged years, it’s been very difficult, but now people are very interested in the Tri-Cities in general, and there’s a lot of interest in Kennewick,” Walsh said.

The city’s largest commercial construction project this year was the $40 million, 110,400-square-foot Chinook Middle School, on Southridge Boulevard, north of Hildebrand Boulevard, which opened in January on West 27th Avenue.

Land is still available for development in Kennewick’s growing Southridge area. (Photo: Paul T. Erickson)

Land is still available for development in Kennewick’s growing Southridge area. (Photo: Paul T. Erickson)

Other Kennewick School District projects include the Amistad construction; a $18.4 million, 66,000-square-foot dual language elementary school on West 10th Place, the former site of Desert Hills Middle School, scheduled to open in 2018; a $21.7 million, 76,600-square-foot elementary school, scheduled to open in 2018; and $18.4 million, 60,500-square-foot Westgate Elementary School, which opened in August.

Projects under construction in the city include apartment complexes, commercial buildings and the Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village. The wine village, on the north side of Columbia Drive south of Clover Island, will include three buildings, totaling 11,400 square feet. It will house production wineries with tasting rooms.

“I believe two projects in particular – the waterfront revitalization and culinary school for (Columbia Basin College) will make a huge difference in the revitalization of the downtown area,” Walsh said. The city has partnered with the Port of Kennewick and CBC to raise about $9 million over the next four years to turn the school into a reality. The three partners have invested about $1 million in the idea, which would culminate in a two-story, 20,000-square-foot facility, with a student-operated restaurant and bakery storefront, an event center and two or three kitchens.

The culinary center would be built next to Duffy’s Pond, on the site of a former manufactured home park, and next to the wine village near the cable bridge.

“We also have a partnership with the Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership to get vibrancy downtown and connect to the port projects – the waterfront and wine village,” Walsh said.

The city issued nearly 100 fewer single-family home construction permits from January through July 2017 compared to the same period last year, or 216 permits valued at $57.9 million through July 2016, to 117 permits valued at $31.7 million through July 2017.

One reason the number is lower is because property subdivision to create new lots in previous years did not keep up with the number of new homes built, Romine said.

“We had a shortage of lots to build on in 2017. New lot creation has increased in 2017 to address the demand for new home construction,” he said.

Nine housing developments are currently under some phase of construction: The Ridge at Hansen Park (84 lots); nine single-family lots and 48 townhomes at the southwest corner of 10th Avenue and Columbia Center Boulevard; Southcliffe (414 lots) on Thompson Hill in the Southridge area; The Village at Southridge (170 single-family lots, clubhouse, assisted living and rehabilitation facility); Canyon Ranch (131 lots), at Ridgeline Drive between Clodfelter Road and Clearwater Avenue; Apple Valley (formerly The Parks); 47 lots at Olympia Street and Highland Drive; Sunrise Ridge (44 lots) off South Newport Place; and Cherry Creek Estates (122 lots), off 45th Avenue and South Ely Street.

“We anticipate continued commercial development in the Southridge area for 2018, with the possibility of some mixed commercial/multi-family development,” Romine said.

The city implemented an express permit program for tenant improvement projects in 2015.

The process involves an application for the plan review/building permit process and typically a permit can be issued in two to three business days. To date, the city has issued more than 100 of these permits.

Single-family and duplex permits also are included in the express program, with permits issued in one to two business days. To date, the city has issued more than 205 of these permits.

The city plans to expand its express permitting program Oct. 9 to include “virtually all residential projects, including factory-built sheds, engineered pole buildings, stick-built shops and sheds, residential additions and residential remodel projects,” Romine said.

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