Pasco wharf’s fate could be decided in 2020

By Andrew Kirk

Plans for a public market at the Port of Pasco wharf next to the cable bridge hit a snag, but the idea is not dead in the water, said Gary Ballew, the port’s director of economic development and marketing.

The port recently completed a detailed inspection of the wharf, which included professional divers.

The review concluded the structure was in “pretty decent shape,” except for the pier caps, a “pretty important component,” Ballew said.

Pier caps transfer weight from the structure—in this case a platform or anything built atop it—to the pier. The decision on whether to replace the pier caps depends on what function the pier serves. Once that is decided, likely some time next year,  a cost estimate can be completed.

The wharf is a small section of the port’s marine terminal, a 28-acre riverfront site near the cable bridge.

The port’s vision for the entire marine terminal is a mixed-use development. That plan will remain whether or not a public market is built, Ballew said.

Adam (Brault) Avenir, president of the Tri-Cities Public Market Foundation, said his group still is working to create an indoor public market to showcase the community’s diversity. He said his board believes a public market will “tilt the scales for Tri-Cities in a big way when it comes to wine tourism.”

Although the public market group sees a lot of potential for a market at the wharf, it understands the challenges and process the port has to go through, Avenir said.

“While it has tremendous promise, the site also poses a lot of feasibility challenges for a public market,” Avenir said, pointing at the findings in the report. “We don’t have a clear path in the near term, but we remain dedicated to that vision and open minded about how to achieve it. We’re not going to rush something just to make something happen.”

He said his group is grateful for the work done by the Port of Pasco.

Ballew said whatever gets built, he hopes the wharf can stay an integral element.

“It’s highly visible property,” Ballew said. “The wharf is really this iconic feature —and next to the cable bridge, which is arguably the most iconic architecture in Tri-Cities. That’s why we put it on all the postcards and logos. The wharf would be an important part of the marine terminal site.”

If the wharf is to be repaired, renovated or torn down, the cost will be high, with lots of permitting issues anticipated, Ballew said.

“Certainly we’d like to have all the options in the world open to us,” he said. “We’re in the process now of winnowing down those options.”

Ballew said all the scenarios should be laid out by early next year, allowing the port’s commission to begin reviewing them.

“They’ll have the information at their disposal of what can be done, then they can begin discussing what will be done,” said Mayra Reyna, director of properties for the port.

In 2020, port commissioners will define the vision and strategy for the marine terminal development, Ballew said, and a public market—or something similar—could be a key element.

Some possible options for the wharf are a place where pleasure boats could dock to enjoy a meal, or a river cruise boat could land to unload tourists ready for a wine tour.

But each of those options would require something different from a pier renovation, Ballew said. That’s why determining the vision first is necessary, he explained.

The current tenant at the wharf is The Granite Guy, owned by Irving Ortega. Receptionist Ximena Ortega said the marine terminal is a great place to do business because it’s easy for customers to find, it has a nice view with fresh air and the neighborhood is safe. There’s rarely traffic and getting to the highway or other major traffic arterials is easy, she said.

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