West Richland: More bedrooms to bring more commercial development

West Richland often is called the Tri-Cities’ bedroom community.

Plenty more bedrooms were built in the past year and more are coming with the buildout of the Heights at Red Mountain Ranch.

The west end of the city saw a boom of new home construction in 2021.

In 2020, the city recorded a total of 230 single-family residential home permits and zero multifamily permits. In 2019, there were 77 permits total.

As of mid-September 2021, the city issued 90 multifamily permits and 210 single-family home permits.

 “That’s 300 units total this year so far, compared to the 230 we did all last year,” said Eric Mendenhall, West Richland’s community development director. “When you look at that, that’s pretty significant.”

Many feared the pandemic would stall residential construction.

“There was a lot of uncertainty during the first quarter of (2021). There was still a lot going on with Covid, with building supplies and materials and the cost of housing, too. So, there’s been a bit of turmoil, but the market seems to be pushing on,” Mendenhall said.

Indeed.

The city has 599 lots for single-family homes and 273 multifamily projects poised for development.

“They are not yet permitted and built on. Some are moving forward, possibly this year; others will be pushed to next year,” Mendenhall said.

Heights at Red Mountain

Many of the city’s future lots are coming online at Aho Development’s Heights at Red Mountain Ranch: 415 homes will be built, but they have not yet wound through the city’s permitting process. The next phases will bring the total development to 563 single-family homes, with another 226 multifamily homes. The project is estimated to accommodate 2,249 residents.

“They’re moving at a pretty good tick,” Mendenhall said, adding that construction would be humming along even faster if the developer wasn’t facing pandemic-related material and supply delays.

The Heights development features sweeping views of Red Mountain, just off Keene Road and West Van Giesen Street.

In the past year, the land has been transformed into a new neighborhood, with newly-built houses already filling in with new homeowners. Across the street, crews are making progress on a new city park, called The Heights Park.

The asphalt is down at the 7-acre city park for a ¾-length basketball court with two standards and a soccer field. Benches and a play toy were wrapped in plastic and awaiting installation in late September.

The Heights will develop toward Ruppert Road to north in future phases. The area includes land earmarked for commercial development.

The city is punching through the end of Paradise Way, which had dead-ended not far from Belmont Boulevard, to connect it to West Van Giesen Street.

The Paradise extension will provide Heights residents a straight shot to the area near Yoke’s Fresh Market and Bombing Range Road.

Bedroom city no more?

Let’s revisit the notion of West Richland serving as the area’s commuter community.

People often choose to move to West Richland for its small-town appeal. It’s home to many commuting to Hanford, Energy Northwest and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, among other jobs. (Or, they were before the before-pandemic-times brought about working from home.)

The city doesn’t have big box stores or chain restaurants or a lot of retail shops. It doesn’t have a defined downtown.

But Mendenhall expects these kinds of developments to follow all the new homes.

“As this area continues to grow and you continue to see the rooftops build up here in West Richland, you’re going to see more and more interest in the commercial side of it,” he said.

HAPO Community Credit Union recently bought land along Keene Road, near the city’s Municipal Services Building at 3100 Belmont Blvd. A Firehouse Subs-anchored store and gas station is under construction next door.

The city still has lots for sale along Keene.

“We’re really hoping that as that starts to come up out of the ground, that the commercial pads over here will break loose and you’ll see some commercial going in there,” Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall said he has been fielding more calls from developers and businesses interested in putting down a stake in West Richland.

“I just talked with a restaurant this morning about locating here in the city,” he said.

The city of West Richland is building a new, voter-approved police station on Van Giesen Street at the former Tri-Cities Raceway. The $12.5 million project should open by Thanksgiving. (Photo by Kristina Lord)

The city of West Richland is building a new, voter-approved police station on Van Giesen Street at the former Tri-Cities Raceway. The $12.5 million project should open by Thanksgiving. (Photo by Kristina Lord)

The city has a few more reasons to turn its focus to its western boundaries with a new $12.5 million police station, scheduled to open by Thanksgiving.

The city bought the former Tri-City Raceway and 93 acres in 2019 with plans to build its new police station and to steer commercial development. A new nonprofit called Friends of Red Mountain Event Center has leased the raceway and has been working to restore the track and launch an event center. Its first big racing event was the Fall Classic in early October 2021.

The new voter-approved police station, located on five of the acres, will replace the old, outdated station on Van Giesen Street.

The new $4.7 million Benton Fire District’s 4 fire station is across the street at 8031 Keene Road.

Also in the neighborhood is Richland School District’s new $11.6 million Teaching, Learning and Administration Center at 6972 Keene Road near Leona Libby Middle School.

The state Department of Transportation has plans to widen Van Giesen from the racetrack to the post office in 2024. It’s currently in the design phase, Mendenhall said, but the roadwork will improve “curb appeal” in the area.

Old city buildings

The city’s old city hall complex and aging police station on the 3800 block of West Van Giesen Street are undergoing a transformation.

Ranchland Homes LLC is building four multifamily buildings with 16 units, with more planned, at 3957 W. Van Giesen St.

In addition to the multifamily homes, Ranchland Homes plans to build a mixed-use complex with offices, storage and retail space. The developer has signed a purchase and sale agreement with the city to buy the old police station once the department moves into its new building.

“It will bring jobs and people into town, and it’ll be a good thing for the community,” Mendenhall said. New multifamily developments tend to encourage neighbors to step it up with their own improvements to retain tenants, he said.

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