In Pasco, the watchword at the moment is planning. And transition.
The city that’s already experienced transformational growth in the last decade-plus is poised to gain even more residents over the next 20-plus years. And that’s on the mind of city officials as they make decisions about policies, infrastructure, services and more.
“For some time now, Pasco has been forecasted to grow and grow and grow and grow,” said Jacob Gonzalez, Pasco’s community and economic development director. “So, I think what you’re seeing is a transition from the kind of development that we got used to the last several decades and now planning for the community that’s here now and the communities and businesses that may call Pasco home in the future.”
Pasco currently is home to more than 81,000 people. A decade ago, that number was around 60,000 people and by the year 2045, Pasco is expected to have about 140,000 residents, Gonzalez said.
That’s about 72% growth over the next two decades.
And housing needs are changing.
Single-family homes have been the staple for the last 10 to 20 years.
But “what we’ve seen over the past year or so is a decrease in single-family construction and a dramatic increase in multifamily,” Gonzalez said. “We are seeing a significant amount of development applications for townhomes, for duplexes, for different cluster-type developments – a mix of single-family and townhomes together in the same development.”
This year, single-family home construction through August is the lowest it’s been since at least 2018 during the same period, with the city issuing 54% fewer building permits.
In all, about 3,500 to 4,000 new housing units are in some stage of development in the city – either under construction or in the review and approval process. At least half are a combination of multifamily units. Gonzalez said the increasing cost of housing and the community’s rapid growth are factors in that change.
Several multifamily housing projects are going up along Sandifur Parkway and Burns Road, he said. And about 450 units are being built in the Broadmoor area – a blend of market rate and senior housing.
“We’ve also got a lot of in-fill townhome development, which is exciting to see, on Road 90 and Road 92, and some in-fill development along Road 68 and Argent Road, just south of Interstate 182. Some good quality multifamily market-rate apartments are being built right now in that important corridor,” he said. “I would expect to see a lot of those vacant lands, in the next year or so, begin to fill up with a combination of higher-density residential and the supporting commercial services.” The city has already made updates to its zoning code to create more opportunities for varied development, including relaxing rules around accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are sometimes called “mother-in-law apartments” or “backyard cottages.”
City staffers also are working on a Housing Action and Implementation Plan, which is expected to go before the Pasco City Council for consideration later this year.
The city is seeing a glut of industrial development in various stages of completion, from Amazon distribution centers to a milk processing plant and a greenhouse complex, among others.
Amazon has built two distribution centers on the east side of town, although an opening date hasn’t yet been announced.
In a statement, Amazon spokesman Steve Kelly told the Journal of Business that the facilities “are included in our plans and remain an integral part of our future in Washington. While we don’t have launch timelines to share at this time, progress is being made at each facility and we’re looking forward to working with our local partners to hire 1,500 people.”
A couple miles north along Highway 395, Darigold is building a $600 million milk production facility that’s expected to open in 2024. Local Bounti also plans to open its $40 million greenhouse complex in east Pasco in 2024. The facility will cultivate live lettuce, herbs and leafy greens sold through groceries.
“Industrial development is really picking up steam. We have to thank our partners with the Port of Pasco and Franklin County for continuing to foster a business-friendly environment,” Gonzalez said.
In this time of transition, Gonzalez said community input is vitally important. “A big thing we’re working on in City Hall is making sure we’re listening to the needs of our residents and not turning a blind eye to those conversations that we’re going to need to have as the city continues to grow,” he said.
That means reaching out and using clear communication, among other things, he said.
That will be key as the forecasted growth comes to bear.
“I don’t want to speak for our neighboring communities, but I think growth is the story of our region. The area is going through a very long transition into a thriving metropolitan area,” Gonzalez said. “And I think we’re trying to get the right policies in place right now to ensure that when that growth does hit, we’re ready for it. I think we’re seeing some of those results already with the change in permitting types that we’re seeing in the city and the appetite for industrial developers and companies looking at this region and Pasco as an attractive place to establish themselves. We want to keep that up without losing sight of the residents who are here and the businesses that are here today.”
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