Commercial and residential growth remains strong in Kennewick, especially in the Southridge area, but city officials say its other areas also are seeing their fair share of activity.
“The growth in Kennewick has been pretty strong in the last few years,” said Wes Romine, development services manager for the city of Kennewick.
Commercial development is expected to surge with the addition of new schools, multi-tenant commercial buildings and elder care facilities — like a 3,600-square-foot, 56-bed memory care center on 24th Avenue off Union Street.
Commercial projects under construction include the 10-screen Fairchild Movie Theatre next to the Walmart store in Kennewick’s Canyon Lakes neighborhood on the 2700 block of South Quillan Street — valued at $6.7 million. The movie theater should be finished toward the end of 2018 or early 2019. There’s also the new Chuck E. Cheese restaurant at 6340 W. Rio Grande Ave. near North Kellogg Street in Kennewick, which opened in September.
Other big projects under development include a four-story, 93-unit Comfort Suites at Plaza Way in Southridge, across from Trios Health, valued at $6.5 million, and a 4,500-square-foot STCU credit union branch at Highway 395 and Hildebrand Road, valued at $1.4 million.
TRI-CU Credit Union, formerly Tri-Cities Community Federal Credit Union, also is under construction at 3213 W. 19th Ave. The building is 8,300 square feet and valued at $1.8 million.
A new bar and grill restaurant is coming to Kennewick: the 6,000-square-foot Silos Bar and Grill, being built on Clearwater Avenue near Ridgeline Drive behind Badger Canyon Coffee, is valued at $750,000.
The city of Kennewick is currently seeking bids for the Ridgeline Drive-Highway 395 interchange, which is needed to handle increased traffic volume and steep highway grade at the intersection that doesn’t currently have a traffic light.
Total residential permit revenue year-to-date for 2018 is about $1.2 million, compared to 2017’s year-to-date total of $771,295, an increase of 55 percent.
New commercial permits issued from January to August 2018 totaled 58, valued at $47 million, up from 26 valued at $28 million issued during the same time period in 2017. In 2017, the city added 442,000 square feet of retail, office and manufacturing space.
“So far (in 2018) we’ve added 400,000 square feet,” said Miles Thomas, economic development manager for the city of Kennewick.
Thomas is looking forward to the development of a multi-story mixed-use building that will house retail, office and apartment spaces in historic downtown Kennewick. The new building will replace the former site of Leo’s Catering at 20 N. Auburn St.
“This will signal a big boon for downtown. It’s quite an opportunity,” Thomas said. “This is the most recent new construction in historic downtown. Over the past few years, we’ve seen renovation of existing projects, but this is by far the most substantial demolition and new construction to occur in downtown in the last few years.”
For Thomas, this signals a renewed interest in downtown Kennewick, where the Port of Kennewick is developing Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village. The second phase of the wine village is already underway and will include a food truck plaza with room for up to six food vendors and a 2,500-square-foot wine tasting room.
Bartholomew Winery and Palencia Wine Co. opened there in fall 2017.
“We have done a lot to encourage new development in the downtown area. We want businesses to see it as advantageous and as a future growth sector,” Thomas said.
One effort to entice businesses is the development of a StrEatery program, which creates street-side outdoor dining spaces at local downtown restaurants. The first one to be built will be at Rockabilly Roasting.
Kennewick’s residential developments are growing as well.
The 414-unit SouthCliffe community continues to expand, followed closely by Apple Valley, which is nearly a quarter complete. Both are just off the newly opened Bob Olson Parkway.
New single-family residential permits in Kennewick issued through August of 2018 totaled 234 and were valued at $74 million, which represents a 72 percent increase from the same period in 2017.
The new Nueva Vista apartment complex at Union Street and Clearwater Avenue offers affordable housing for low-income families and the homeless. The second phase will add 50 units in two new buildings, each valued at nearly $2 million.
The city’s express permitting program for commercial tenant improvement and new single-family residence projects that meet pre-specified qualifications was established in 2015. It allows contractors and commercial property owners with buildings under 12,000 square feet to quickly apply for and receive permission for tenant improvement projects — usually within two to three days.
In 2016, the city extended the program, which can grant a permit in 48 hours, to include new single-family homes.
The city charges a convenience fee of 30 percent of the permit fee, or $400 — whichever is greater — for commercial projects, and 20 percent of the permit fee for residential projects.
In July 2017, the city added residential alterations to the program, and in February 2018 the program was extended to include new duplex residential permits.
“The residential express permitting process has been very successful,” said Dan Wilson, express permitting program manager for the city.
The city has issued more than 450 express permits for new single-family homes and nearly 300 permits for commercial tenant improvements since it started, and is determining whether to explore the feasibility of opening the express permitting process to new commercial construction.
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