‘For Sale’ signs coming to Columbia Gardens, Vista Field – at last

Years after Columbia Gardens and its sister development, Vista Field, began taking shape in Kennewick, private developers will finally get a shot at buying sites in both developments this fall.

The Port of Kennewick expects to hang a “For Sale” sign at Columbia Gardens, its wine-themed urban village near the base of the cable bridge, in September, and at Vista Field, the former municipal airport, a few months later.

Selling land to private businesses sets the stage for both projects to fulfill their respective missions to spark private development in Kennewick and to create unique places for visitors and residents.

For Columbia Gardens, next to Duffy’s Pond, that includes a mix of tenants who lease space in a pair of winery buildings and at the food truck plaza, as well as private owners who install restaurants and other businesses on sites around the property.

Land sales can’t come fast enough for Ron Swanby, owner of Swampy’s BBQ Sauce and Eatery. In early 2020, Swanby moved his barbecue truck and smoker to a pair of leased parking spots at the Columbia Gardens food truck plaza.

He covered his costs, but took no salary in the first year. Eager to expand, he first asked the port to sell a sliver of land beside Columbia Drive in April.

“I need to grow. I need to be able to not only do caterings but have food sales at Columbia Gardens at the same time,” he said.

On a recent day, he was one of six trucks operating at the plaza, across from Zip’s Drive-In.

He wants to build a permanent kitchen to support his growing business so that he doesn’t have to choose between operating from the truck or catering special events. The either-or model leaves money on the table. A permanent kitchen frees him to work regionally from a fixed base.

Swanby said he is thrilled the port is finally ready to sell the land.

He submitted a letter of intent to buy the site in late August and intends to break ground by the end of the year.

Moving into a 600- to 700-square-foot commercial kitchen will have another benefit. It will free up his two spots for additional food trucks, creating more opportunities for small businesses to be part of Columbia Gardens.

It has taken the port years to bring both Columbia Gardens and Vista Field to the point it is ready to sell land. The last steps include finalizing design guidelines for developers, establishing property owner associations to maintain shared areas and setting prices for the lots based on a market appraisal.

The port’s board of commissioners will discuss a property appraiser’s take on what it should charge at its Sept. 14 meeting.

“Port staff have been preparing for land sales at both Columbia Gardens and Vista Field,” said Tana Bader Inglima, the port’s deputy chief executive officer.

At 103 acres, Vista Field in central Kennewick is a larger and more complex undertaking and has a few more steps before it is cleared for sales.

The port spent more than $4 million on the first round of infrastructure between 2019-20. Next steps include turning the improvements over to the city of Kennewick, a process that includes more than 150 pages of technical drawings.

The commission will consider land prices in September and a survey to create 58 lots for the first phase. Some “lots” represent streets and alleys and will not be available for sale.

The project will develop in eight phases. At full build out, it is expected to include more than 750,000 square feet of commercial space and 1,100 residential units.

For Columbia Gardens, the port expects to advertise the lots – created more than 18 months ago – to would-be buyers. Go to portofkennewick.org/sale-lease/locations/columbia-gardens.

For Vista Field, it will use a request for proposal process.

Prospective buyers will submit detailed plans for their sites and the port will choose the one that best suits the overall goal of creating an urban, mixed-use village. The quality of the proposal rather than price will determine which gets selected.

Go to portofkennewick.org/projects/vista-field.

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