City of Richland: New bridge, developments to boost central district

Transformational projects in central Richland will add new housing options, transportation routes and businesses to the city’s core.

The long-anticipated Duportail Street bridge is expected to open in fall 2020. The route will connect drivers from the Stevens Drive corridor to the Queensgate Drive retail hub, and provide easier access to locations in central Richland, like The Parkway and Uptown Shopping Center.

The city of Richland said the new bridge is “progressing as anticipated.” Apollo Inc. of Kennewick is the general contractor on the $38 million project that got underway in March 2018. In summer 2019, crews worked on the deck spans and poured concrete for sidewalks on both sides of the Yakima River. Construction is not allowed on the bridge year-round due to limitations by federal agencies connected to fish passage in the water below.

The city of Richland already is looking ahead to the opportunities the bridge’s completion could provide for additional development.

“Depending on the alignment on the Queensgate side, we will get some more commercial property that opens up with limited use,” said Mandy Wallner, marketing specialist for economic development in the city of Richland. “It’s kind of more ideal for a hotel with adjacent commercial uses.”

A number of projects are underway in the central business district, including a new building at 702 The Parkway that is expected to house Moniker—a cocktail bar—and two other businesses. Moniker would join an existing 13 new businesses that have opened in The Parkway from August 2018-19.

The city is “anxious” for Dovetail Joint, a new 3,000-square-foot restaurant scheduled to open in the Uptown Shopping Center, to join the 15 new businesses that opened in the Uptown from August 2018-19.

Just south of the Uptown, a flurry of work is underway at 1100 Jadwin, a commercial building getting an exterior facelift and other improvements, including a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, roof and updated common areas. The $4 million project is spearheaded by Boost Builds, the same team behind the new Park Place apartments under construction at 650 George Washington Way.

“We will be bringing this building up to modern standards,” said David Lippes, principal of Boost Builds.

A new façade on the first story and other improvements at the Jadwin building are expected to take six months.

“We are adding a whole lot of landscaping, including cleaning out the ditch that is there, which is an overgrown mess, in most of the same way Kadlec cleaned out the ditch and beautified it,” Lippes said. “We have water running through our town, and it’s beautiful if we make it visually accessible.”

An even bigger overhaul is planned for the building next door at 1200 Jadwin, a property also owned by Lippes and John Crook of Boost Builds.

A devastating water leak forced all tenants to move out of the 110,000-square-foot commercial building about four years ago.

“It was just a mess,” Lippes said. “The building was vacated to rebuild it as a commercial building, and John and I got in the way and said, ‘Let’s not rebuild it as a commercial building. Let’s get it gutted and see if we can modify its use for an apartment building.’ ”

Their vision includes 137 residential “market-rate rental units.” Parts of the exterior would come off to allow for each apartment to have its own balcony, some with floor-to-ceiling glass.

Lippes is excited about putting residential units into concrete, which is known for absorbing sound. “It will end up being the only concrete apartment building in the Tri-Cities. I hope it’s the quietest one, and it will have really tall ceilings with exposed concrete, so more like any loft building that has been converted from one use to another. It should have an urban loft-like aesthetic,” he said.

There’s no expected start or finish date for the 1200 Jadwin project. “We are deep into the design phase, which we’ve been into now for about a year,” Lippes said. “I don’t have a timeframe. It depends on design, cost and the reality we’ll be faced with—that is building something that fits within our budget.”

Boost Builds’ Park Place development on George Washington Way will fill in the much-maligned spot known as “the pit.”

Describing the end result as “fabulous,” Lippes is enthusiastic about bringing a new level of amenities to Tri-City rental housing.

Park Place development off George Washington Way in Richland. (Photo by Scott Butner Photography)

“It will be the first building with enclosed, secure parking,” he said. “Most of the rental buildings end up a little bit on the outskirts of town because of the land cost. So we’re going right for the heart of town with a higher-quality offering. And that means we have to charge more in rent.” There’s already a waiting list for those interested in the 106 units overlooking Howard Amon Park.

The apartments will be on the east end of the property with retail right along the street and a parking lot in between to increase walkability. “For so long, in many communities across the country, including ours, the design was: street, sidewalk, parking lot, strip mall,” Lippes said. “And now the idea is: let’s take the parking lot off the street, and let’s put that somewhere else and put the building right on the street.”

He said that’s why the retail buildings under construction on George Washington Way are right along the sidewalk—to create a more urban style with people on foot in a downtown community. Lippes believes it will let people “jump from a sidewalk into a retail space.”

The Park Place retail areas will be ready in spring 2020. The housing units should be available for move-in by summer 2020.

The city continues to market its former City Hall site that has frontage to Swift, George Washington Way and Jadwin. After tearing down the city buildings in 2019, Richland wants to sell the lot as either one or two parcels. Staff and services were relocated one block west at a newly-constructed building that opened in June 2019. Richland says it is looking for the “right fit” in a potential buyer for the high-profile piece of land.

If a single parcel was purchased, the city may move the fire station at 1000 George Washington Way across the street to 975 George Washington Way. Additionally, the Richland Fire Department is looking to establish a fire station in north Richland to service the growing number of residents there. The city bought land at Ninth Street and Port of Benton Boulevard and also has land at Jadwin and Highway 240.

The north end of Richland has seen multimillion dollar industrial activity near Kingsgate Way and other spots north of Horn Rapids Road. Through the end of July 2019, the city closed on 85 acres totaling $4.1 million.

On Polar Way, Preferred Freezer is in the midst of a $35 million expansion, and a $26 million cardboard box plant is being built nearby for Packaging Corporation of America.

The city is doing its part to make the area marketable and accessible, investing $1.6 million to extend Henderson Loop west a half mile and Battelle Boulevard west from Kingsgate to open up lots of up to 20 acres in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park.

Richland is master planning the 1,341 acres it received from the U.S. Department of Energy on the north end of town. Wallner said it’s likely 100-acre lots would be pitched to “large, Boeing-type developers” through direct recruiting.

It’s possible the city will wrap up the Duportail bridge work and dive into another bridge project if it is approved for a federal grant. Richland will find out in November 2019 if it’s been approved for $29 million in funding to create a Highway 240 “flyover” at Aaron Drive to relieve bottlenecks at the intersection near Wellsian Way and Interstate 182. The grant would cover 80 percent of the expected cost of the bridge.

The overall emphasis expected in 2020 will focus on central Richland and areas north, a shift from where a lot of growth has focused for years. This is expected to include new buildings and tenants along George Washington Way and continued growth at the north end of town.

Lippes and other developers looking to make their mark on the changing landscape have big visions for attracting more people to the city’s core to live, work and play.

“The more businesses we have in our community that reflect not a Wall Street-designed, corporate image, but reflect the culture and experience and expressiveness of an individual’s personality, the more fun it’s going to be for every one of us to live in this community,” he said.

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