City of Richland: Pace of progress picks up despite pandemic

The pace of progress is on the rise in Richland, where the city has issued nearly twice as many commercial building permits through July 2021 compared to the same time period last year.

While the overall number of permits has increased, the value of the projects is coming in lower, said Mandy Wallner, marketing specialist for Richland’s economic development office.

“We really have been very well insulated over Covid, and saw an increase in sales tax, as well as an increase in the overall number of active businesses in the community, which has a population of approximately 59,570. 

“We did see more businesses open than close during the pandemic,” she said. 

Through July 2021, the city issued 54 new commercial building permits valued at $35.7 million, compared to 28 permits the previous year during the same period, at a value of about $50.9 million. 

The trend continues for commercial remodel permits. 

In the first seven months of 2021, the city issued 75 commercial remodel building permits valued at $14.3 million, compared to 60 during the previous year, at a value of $16.9 million.

Permits for new single-family homes are up 16% through July this year, with the city issuing 233 new permits at a value of
$80.4 million, compared to 213 in 2020, valued at $67.4 million.  

National Guard center

One of the largest projects underway is the new readiness center being built by the Washington Army National Guard on 40 acres in north Richland. 

The $15 million, 40,000-square-foot center at 2655 First St. in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park is expected to be complete in early 2022. It will service a Stryker Infantry unit with classrooms and conference rooms, which also will be available for public use. The facility will be used to train reservists for responding to national disasters and other civil responses. 

“(The Washington Army National Guard) previously did not have a presence here, so I think this is very exciting,” Wallner said.

The facility will have a handful of National Guard staff members stationed there permanently, including a recruiter, and about 150 soldiers will attend monthly drills on the weekends and during two weeks each summer. 

The National Guard bought the 40-acre site from the city of Richland for $1.7 million in 2017 and Fowler Construction of Richland is the project’s general contractor. 

North Richland growth

Wallner said the city has finished infrastructure improvements at Henderson Loop, creating 18 new sites in the vibrant and growing area where Iconic Brewing just opened, joining a cluster of other breweries and wineries. 

The Henderson Loop project will be complete in fall 2022. The sites are being created for more industrial and commercial use, but they must include a commercial component, Wallner said. 

Wallner said north Richland is one of the fastest growing commercial and residential areas in the city. 

The city recently completed a new roundabout at the intersection of Clubhouse Lane and Kingsgate Way, opening development for five lots in what is being called the Horn Rapids Commercial Plaza on the south side of Highway 240. 

One of the lots is already under contract and will be a gas station/convenience store. Four other lots, ranging from 1.2 acres to 2.3 acres, also are available for retail development. 

The plaza is adjacent to the Horn Rapids Golf Course community, which already boasts more than 500 homes and is starting its final phase to add 200 more homes.

Residential construction off Ava Way and Dallas Road on the south slope of Badger Mountain in Richland. (Photo by Scott Butner Photography)

Across the highway, the new $48 million Vicinity at Horn Rapids apartment complex is under construction. The first phase includes four buildings with 120 units, and the second adds four more buildings, with a total of 168 apartments. 

The vibrant residential growth bodes well for the future of commercial growth in the area, Wallner said, and she expects keen interest in the available lots at the Horn Rapid Commercial Plaza. 

The sites are ideal for retail, office or medical buildings, she said. 

Services to meet demand

As commercial and residential development sprawls toward the city’s outer boundaries, city services must be developed to meet the demand.

The city is building a new fire station, Station 75, and replacing and relocating Station 73. 

Station 75 at 460 Battelle Blvd. will provide the coverage needed in north central and northeast corners of Richland, home to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University Tri-Cities and many other commercial and industrial businesses in the area.

The 11,320-square-foot station at the corner of Battelle Boulevard and Port of Benton Boulevard, near George Washington Way, will be staffed by a dozen fire and emergency medical service personnel.

The city received a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant for up to $2.2 million, which is helping pay for the project.

Wallner said relocating and replacing Station 73 will allow for better response times in the northwest part of Richland, covering the rapidly growing residential and commercial areas near Horn Rapids. 

Station 73 was built in 1958 at 1900 Jadwin Ave., near the intersection of McMurray Street. 

The facility, which is outdated and not in the best location to provide coverage to north and central Richland, will be moved to a site near the intersection of Jadwin and Highway 240.

Although the new fire station, which will be 10,360 square feet, isn’t far from the original Station 73, it provides more direct access to Highway 240, which will help improve response times and coverage in north/central Richland and Horn Rapids.

Each station will include a full operational fire/EMS station as well as dedicated work spaces for police officers. 

Wallner said this allows police officers to remain in their assigned zones, allowing for faster response times and higher efficiency. 

“It has also increased collaboration and community between police and fire,” Wallner said. 

DGR Grant Construction Inc. of Richland is the general contractor of the fire stations, which were designed by Architects West and Perlman Architects. 

Construction on both fire stations is expected to be complete in fall 2021.

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