City of Kennewick: The reigning retail capital of the Tri-Cities

The city of Kennewick continues to grow at a steady clip, ushering in new commercial and residential growth anchored by recent developments along Columbia Center Boulevard and in the Southridge, Vista Field and downtown areas.

There’s plenty of commercial development along Columbia Center Boulevard, including the opening of three popular new stores.

Goodwill Industries of the Mid-Columbia opened its 20,205-square-foot store and warehouse on Columbia Center Boulevard in August 2019, a project valued at $2.75 million. The new 45,000-square-foot Dick’s Sporting Goods—valued at $7.4 million—at Columbia Center mall welcomed shoppers in September 2019.

The 106,000-square-foot At Home, a home décor store on Columbia Center Boulevard, where a Shopko store used to be, opened in October 2019. The building underwent a $2.6 million remodel.

New commercial permits issued for the first eight months of 2019 totaled 55 and were valued at more than $80 million, compared with 58 permits valued at more than $47 million issued during the same period the previous year.

Total permit revenue for the first eight months of 2019 was $1.6 million, compared to the previous year’s $1.5 million.

“Revenue is still going up and valuation is going up,” said Miles Thomas, economic development manager for the city of Kennewick. “There’s a similar number of projects, but we have larger or more substantial projects this year.”

The hospitality and entertainment sectors also are getting a boost.

In September 2019, the Kennewick City Council approved an agreement to sell 3.56 acres next to the Three Rivers Convention Center and Toyota Center to A-1 Pearl LLC. The hotel development company has plans to build a $50 million, seven-story hotel and 40,000-square-foot, three-story retail center.

In addition, the agreement grants the option to buy the adjacent property for the second phase of the project, which would create residential, commercial and public spaces with water features and a boardwalk.

As part of this public-private partnership, the city would commit $35 million to expand the convention center by adding 33,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 2,300-seat theater.

Thomas said the agreement gives both parties two years to secure financing and another two years to bring it to fruition.

“No new taxes will be required for the city,” Thomas said. “We’re utilizing existing debt servicing to fund the project.”

The expansion will be a benefit to the community, Thomas said.

“When we have a Broadway-style production, we’re using only a portion of the floor space (at the Toyota Center),” he said. “It takes substantial time and energy to make the space work for those productions. Once the new theater is built, we can move those productions there and market the entire Toyota Center for conventions, shows and entertainment that fits its full capacity. It’s an opportunity to use each space as it’s intended and recruit the right shows for the venues.”

Fairchild Cinemas construction off South Quillan Street in Kennewick. (Photo by Scott Butner Photography)

Kennewick issued 231 single-family home permits valued at about $69 million in the first eight months of 2019, compared to 185 permits valued at $49 million issued during the same period five years ago.

New housing developments include Sunrise Ridge, with 44 lots on 20 acres on the east side of Olympia Street near Highway 397, and Southridge Estates with 51 lots off Ridgeline Drive.

For both commercial and residential tenant improvements, the city’s express permitting program, launched in 2015, has been popular. For residential improvements, homeowners can secure a permit in less than 72 hours for additions, pergolas, decks or to finish a basement.

To address gaps in affordable housing availability, the city hopes to use money from House Bill 1406, which allows cities to leverage sales tax revenues to fund affordable housing projects.

“The opportunity is pretty amazing from a legislative standpoint to be able to use state dollars for affordable housing intervention in our local communities,” Thomas said.

The Kennewick Housing Authority has plans to build 16 affordable housing units at 128 E. 13th Ave. The project includes two-bedroom and studio units, with parking and open green space between them. The housing authority is using funds from the city’s Community Development Block grant for the project.

Heatherstone Apartments on West 10th Avenue received a tax credit to complete $20 million in renovations to modernize units, while extending affordable housing opportunities for low-income individuals and families.

In the heart of Kennewick’s retail area, construction on Vista Field roads began in spring 2019 as part of the Port of Kennewick’s plan to turn 103 acres of the former airport into a pedestrian-friendly development featuring homes and retail.

“The Port of Kennewick anticipates that in late the first quarter of 2020, it will be begin to sell development for lots under the master plan for Vista Field,” Thomas said.

The first phase includes 20 acres. The port plans to renovate the old airport hangar to make it leasable space for restaurants and retail.

In downtown Kennewick, Layered Cake Artistry worked in fall 2019 to complete an extensive renovation at 115 W. Kennewick Ave., which included adding a commercial kitchen. It is using half the space, the other half—3,500 square feet—is available for lease.

Construction of a 2,500-square-foot waterfront building wrapped up in fall 2019 to welcome two new tasting rooms for Cave B Estate Winery and Gordon Estate Winery. It’s part of the Port of Kennewick’s Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village development off Columbia Drive.

In early 2019, the port finished a pedestrian-friendly street called Columbia Gardens Way between North Cedar and Date streets, along with a waterfront food truck plaza with several tenants: Swampy’s BBQ, Frost Me Sweet Mobile Desserts, The Ciao Wagon and Rollin’ Fresh Ice Cream.

Columbia Gardens will have six new parcels ready for private-sector development—long-term ground lease or purchase—to complement the wine village, which could include breweries, galleries or bistros.

“Lots of arts, lots of wine, lots of access to waterway and food trucks—there’s a lot going on in the waterfront,” said Tana Bader Inglima, deputy chief executive officer at the Port of Kennewick.

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