The Port of Pasco has a new partner to carry out its vision of an active community at its prized Osprey Pointe property on the Columbia River.
JMS Development, led by James Sexton, has signed a letter of intent to work with the port to develop the 55-acre park-like property in east Pasco.
A development agreement that will spell out what goes where is in the works. The port has long sought to attract the public to the area where it has its headquarters with a mix of residential, office, retail, recreational and even light industrial development.
Sexton said he shares the vision for the property at 1100 Osprey Pointe, between Ainsworth Avenue and the river. The total investment could be $75 million to $100 million.
“I’ve been looking at that property since I was 7,” said Sexton, a Tri-City native whose company is wrapping up its latest undertaking, Cedar Village, a 43-unit townhome community in Kennewick.
The tentative partnership is a major shift for the port, which built its headquarters there in 2011.
About two years ago, it signed a letter of intent with Mitch Gilbert, a Pasco entrepreneur who formed EatyGourmet and broadcast his plans to blanket Osprey Point with a boutique hotel, marketplace and other tourism-oriented amenities.
Gilbert’s vision drew attention in local and regional media. Separately, EatyGourmet wooed would-be investors by noting Osprey Pointe is in Pasco’s Opportunity Zone, a federally-designated area eligible for tax breaks for investments that promote development in nontraditional locations.
Big vision evaporates
Randy Hayden, the port’s executive director, confirmed it terminated its agreement with EatyGourmet over a lack of communication.
The EatyGourmet’s website is no longer public. Gilbert could not be reached by phone or through his Facebook page.
Hayden had little more to say about EatyGourmet. After signing the letter of intent, it was unable to reach a purchase-and-sale agreement.
Prospective investors can still take advantage of the Opportunity Zone program, although it is winding down and the benefits aren’t as rich as they were a few years ago.
Hayden said the port remains committed to a project that respects the location.
The commission, he said, wants something that would provide a sense of place and the sorts of waterfront venues that don’t exist in the Tri-Cities.
Congress created Opportunity Zones in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to promote development and jobs in low-income and rural areas. Investors can defer capital gains taxes by reinvesting profits from other investments in the zones. The incentives improve the longer the money stays in the project.
While incentives are winding down as the program hits key deadlines, there are still benefits to those who act before the end of 2021.
The Tri-Cities have three such zones: one in Pasco and two in Kennewick.
The Pasco zone covers most of the east side and downtown. Kennewick’s zones cover downtown and Clover Island, as well as the Three Rivers Convention Center campus area between the Columbia River and West Clearwater Avenue.
Talked to the bank
Sexton said the port made sure he has the financial backing to proceed before it agreed to bring him on.
“They talked to my bank,” he said.
Sexton is undaunted by the location, which is well removed from the region’s commercial and retail hubs to the west. Its no-levee riverfront and walking paths are unique in the region, he said.
Pasco is one of the fastest-growing communities in the state, expected to add nearly 50,000 residents by 2038, according to the state Office of Financial Management.
The development will be pedestrian friendly and packed with residential units and commercial amenities.
“If you build a good product anywhere, they will buy it,” Sexton said.
Sexton said he has the financing and the knowhow to transform the waterfront into a community. Both Sexton and the port said they don’t want to describe the vision in detail to avoid making promises they can’t keep.
To date, they have debated the placement of condominiums, townhomes, a marketplace, an amphitheater and commercial buildings on the property.
Sexton hopes to release a final version of the plan by late March, saying it’s premature to discuss specifics before he reaches an agreement with the port.
Sexton said he’ll move fast once the plan is approved and the project is designed and permitted.
“I’m ready to start moving dirt,” he said. “It’s a huge thing that’s happening.”
It won’t begin quite that fast.
Last summer, the port applied to the city to amend its zoning to create a “waterfront development district” for the area.
The change would allow residential development along the western edge of the property and spells out development standards that preserve river views by limiting building sizes, locations and heights, among other restrictions.
The Pasco Planning Commission reviewed the waterfront district plan in February and plans to hold a public hearing when it meets at 7 p.m. March 19 in the council chambers of Pasco City Hall, 525 N. Third Ave.
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