Economy sends mixed signals, but public works projects press onBY WENDY CULVERWELL
The Tri-Cities is being transformed by an array of public and private projects.
From apartment buildings and subdivisions to new Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen franchises and a pair of massive distribu tion centers for Amazon Inc., the community’s growing population is reflected in the buildings and businesses that serve it.
Will it continue into 2023?
The economy is sending mixed signals. Locally, housing starts
were running 20% behind the five-year average in September after a series of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve pushed the rate on a 30-year mortgage to about 6.5%.
Inflation is running around 8.3% and no end is in sight for spotty deliveries of critical equip ment, leading to the ubiquitous phrase, “supply chain disrup tions.” It is a recipe for uncer tainty.
Plenty of private projects are proceeding – look to north Pasco for the start of Darigold’s $600 million milk-drying plant. But
public works emerged as a key area to watch in the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business’s annual dive into all things related to construction and real estate.
Local cities, ports and school districts are investing heavily in the critical infrastructure needed to serve the growing commu nity. The combined population of Benton and Franklin coun ties stands at about 312,000, an increase of about 10,000 people in just two years, according to the state Office of Financial Manage ment.
Some projects will upgrade
and expand existing systems, such as the water systems that fill our faucets, and the sewage systems that safely dispose of wastewater. Others will establish fire stations, schools and roads.
The biggest of these are the new high schools envisioned in Pasco and Richland. Both districts report crowding at their existing schools and both intend to ask voters to approve bonds in early 2023.
If approved, bonds will fund construction of two new high schools and other facilities. The Pasco bond will be on the Feb. 14 ballot. Richland hasn’t finalized its request.
Pasco’s new high school will be constructed near Road 60 and Burns Road and will be its first since Chiawana High opened in 2009.
Richland’s new full-service high school will be built in West Richland and will be the first since Hanford High opened in 1972.
The Kennewick School District is not pursuing a new bond. But it recently started a $31 million project to replace Ridge View Elementary, among the last projects funded by a bond ap proved in 2019.
Chervenell Construction is the contractor for the Ridge
View project, which is replacing a 20-classroom school with a 30-classroom one. The old school has been demolished and the site was being prepared in September for construction to begin.
In the interim, staff and stu dents are meeting at Fruitland Elementary, near Neil F. Lamp son Stadium and Kennewick High School.
Pasco and Kennewick both have major bridge projects in the works. Pasco is building the $36 million Lewis Street overpass, which replaces the outdated and dangerous underpass that dips below BNSF rail lines in east
Kennewick is rerouting Ridge line Drive under Highway 395 in the Southridge area, an update that will smooth traffic in the fast-growing area and improve safety on the highway corridor. Richland completed its main bridge project in 2020 when it opened the Duportail Bridge to traffic.
Kennewick will solicit bids to upgrade the Steptoe Street-Gage Boulevard intersection by early 2023.
And in September, the city of Richland broke ground on a proj ect to extend Center Parkway. Premier Excavation Inc. of Pasco is the contractor. The project will connect Center Parkway across railroad tracks and provide a connection between Gage Bou levard and Tapteal Drive at the Richland-Kennewick border near Columbia Center mall.
Premier Excavation also is
busy building Cooperative Way off Keene Road for the city of West Richland. The road will service Benton REA’s future headquarters.
In Pasco, the city is preparing to spend $40 million to upgrade roads in the Road 100-Broad moor corridor to accommodate future retail and residential development that is taking hold. Costco signed a letter of intent to build a store at Road 100 and Sandifur Parkway, though the company has not formally an nounced any plans for a second Tri-City location.
The work includes adding more lanes at the Interstate 182 interchange in anticipation of future traffic loads.
On the utility front, Kenne wick began a $10.8 million effort to replace 26,000 water meters to “smart” meters that can be read
remotely and that offer custom ers a real-time look at their water use.
The city plans to overhaul its wastewater treatment plant to the tune of $29.1 million begin ning in 2023. The old settlement lagoons will be replaced by greenhouses that dry solid waste and convert it into fertilizer.
Pasco solicited bids to upgrade its process water reuse facility, which serves food processors, and to invest in its wastewater treatment plant, a new reservoir on the west side and its Butter field Water Treatment Plant.
Richland budgeted $3.1 mil lion to expand the capacity of its wastewater treatment plant.
West Richland also expects to expand its wastewater treatment plant and build a second one to accommodate the future Lewis & Clark Ranch development.
Fire stations, furry friends
Local cities will continue to build new fire stations and replace old ones in the coming year.
Pasco advertised for bids for its next fire station and Kenne wick broke ground on a replace ment station at Sixth Avenue and Auburn Street.
And Pasco is taking steps to construct a 10,000-squarefoot facility to house Tri-Cities Animal Control and Sheltering Services on a site near the aging facility next to the Columbia River. The city submitted docu ments for environmental review, though as of publication it had not advertised for contractors.
In review documents, the city indicated it expected to break ground in November 2022. Pasco is the lead agency and host for animal control, which also serves Richland and Pasco. ●
Rising costs slow homebuilding but demand continuesBY WENDY CULVERWELL
Lott, a Tri-City homebuilder, sat in the living room of the south Richland home his company built for the 2022 Parade of Homes.
He reveled in the steady stream of bootie-clad visitors wandering the house, peering into bedrooms and closets and cabinets.
There were challenges, but he was proud of the resulting home, with its 2,324 square feet, open floor plan, three bedrooms (plus den) and three-car garage.
The box beam ceilings and de tailed carpentry around the stone fireplace were his favorite features.
The 2022 Parade was the first “regular” event since the Covid-19 pandemic forced the Home Build ers Association of Tri-Cities to cancel the 2020 Parade of Homes and conduct the 2021 event be hind masks.
Masks were optional for 2022 and even if Lott was one of only
four builders open to in-person tours during the show (two homes offered virtual-only tours this year), the industry was ready to celebrate a return to normalcy.
Jeff Losey, president of the HBA, said his members were happy with the steady traffic of visitors, though he had hoped to see more. He looks forward to the coming year and is optimistic that by 2023, the Parade will feature a larger lineup of homes.
“We’re hoping to be back more to traditional numbers next year,” he said.
He is less optimistic about homebuilding in general.
Builders aren’t pessimistic, but they shy away from rosy projec tions.
A slower pace
The industry faces the usual lineup of culprits in 2022: mort gage interest rates are rising, building material costs are up by 20% and supply chain instabil
ity makes it difficult to anticipate when everything from refrigera tors to transformers will arrive.
The result is a slowing in the pace of construction, even as de mand remains constant, propelled by job and population growth.
Local homebuilders secured 864 permits for single-family homes by early September, ac cording to HBA figures. That is 20% behind the five-year running average for the region.
Losey said summertime slowdowns are typical for the Tri-Cities. Families are busy with summer activities, not moving. If they are going to move into a new house, they don’t wait until summer to begin construction. They’ve usually planned to move in well before the first day of school.
“That said, we’re 20% off from where it was,” he acknowledged.
He’s heartened by a modest increase in the number of homes for sale. There were more homes
for sale in August than a year prior. It’s still below the 1,200 or so needed to bring the market into balance but it signals a muchneeded breather.
The market still favors sellers, though not as ardently as during the height of home price apprecia tion. Houses sell fast, but not as fast. Price reductions are more common. And Losey notes the return of open houses and “For Sale” signs in lawns – selling tools that weren’t crucial when homes sold on the day they listed.
“Demand may be waning, but it’s still there,” he said.
Losey anticipates homebuilding will continue at or below its cur rent level into the coming year.
“I would expect it to be worse in terms of the number of permits pulled,” he said.
The Federal Reserve has raised the federal funds rate – the inter est rate it charges banks – five times in 2022. The cumulative to tal is three percentage points after the most recent three quarters of a
percent hike in late September.
The last hike pushed interest rates for a 30-year mortgage to about 6.5%.
The U.S. Department of Labor pegs the inflation rate at 8.3%.
Despite the challenges, there are still too few new or existing homes offered to keep up with demand.
There were 550 homes for sale in early September, according to the Tri-City Association of Real tors. That’s more than the 300 or so on offer in early 2022, but still short of the 1,200 required for a balanced market.
Price drops are common and the time it takes to sell a home has grown to 22 days on average, up from 14 days last year, according to the Realtors association.
Gretl Crawford, owner of Gretl Crawford Homes, a boutique custom builder, said she intends to keep building about 10 homes per year. She doesn’t typically build the same home twice but is adapting by customizing plans to keep construction predictable.
She uses similar plans that can
“That’s the easiest thing to do is have a product that you already know what it costs, to market it and build it quickly,” she said.
The company also attempts to control costs by ordering all the construction materials when the project starts.
“We make all our decisions for the houses up front with the homeowners. We order every thing at the beginning. Lock in the cost and have the products on hand,” she said.
Interest rates, inflation and supply chain issues are not the only reason homebuilding has fallen behind.
Builders cite the cost and availability of buildable lots as a significant challenge.
Lott, answering why it is so difficult to build new homes that are in the affordable range, said land costs more. Purchasing a site, securing permits and sales taxes on construction total $300,000 before work even begins.
Crawford said it can cost $200,000 to buy a one-acre home site. Clients will ask if she can build for $800,000 or below, which is well above the Tri-City median price of $420,000 in August. The answer is no.
“The price of everything has gone up,” she said.
Crawford said her clients are typically people with Tri-City con nections, who live here already or are moving for family. That gives her confidence that demand at
the upper end will remain strong, though she expects some softness.
“There’s going to be more of a buyers’ market,” she predicted.
In Pasco, where new home permits are running nearly 50% behind the recent average, new subdivisions will offer a test of demand. The city is processing subdivision permits that will add more than 900 lots in western Pasco.
West Richland reports 4,200 homes, including apartments, are in the planning and development phase. That includes 3,000 in the future Lewis & Clark Ranch area on the west end of town.
In Kennewick, a 17-acre parcel between West 10th and West Clearwater avenues offers a tell ing look at a shift coming to the building industry.
D.R. Horton Inc., the $32 bil lion homebuilding giant from Fort Worth, Texas, is teaming with a local owner on a future neighbor hood.
The site has been carved into 138 lots. Roads are in, as are utili ties and even banks of mailboxes. The subdivision will be filled with duplexes, one way to keep land costs down.
The property is owned by an Othello-based development company but D.R. Horton has a purchase agreement, according to Benton County records.
D.R. Horton’s interest in the Tri-Cities has been rumored for at least a year, confirmation that the local community is gaining the attention of national builders. Its arrival could leave a mark on the most critical market, the one serving entry-level buyers.
In a recent investor presenta tion, D.R. Horton said 54% of the homes it sold closed for $350,000 or less.
Commercial real estate
Builders have lots of jobs and lots of challengesBY WENDY CULVERWELL
In early September, amid a gloomy inflation report that sent financial markets plummeting, Darigold Inc. broke ground on a $600 million stateof-the art milk processing plant north of Pasco.
It is the largest project in the region, but hardly the only one. Even as builders struggle to hire qualified workers and manage ris ing costs, supply chain issues and worried clients, commercial con struction is steaming ahead in the Tri-Cities. Private sector projects such as Darigold have overtaken government ones in headlines, but that could prove temporary.
State and federal infrastructure packages promise to spark public works across the country and the Richland and Pasco school
districts will ask their voters to approve construction bonds to build new high schools and other facilities in early 2023.
The picture is one of continued growth in the Tri-Cities, tainted somewhat by economic jitters.
“It is a mixed bag,” said Joel Bouchey, regional director and public policy coordinator for the Inland Northwest chapter of Associated General Contractors of America. Nationally, AGC predicts rising prices and labor shortages could delay projects.
But Bouchey is an optimist who cites Darigold and a dizzy ing array of local projects that are keeping local contractors busy.
“As long as people stay opti mistic, we’ll be fine,” he said.
based in Kennewick, is one of the busiest commercial builders in the region with a hand in build ing a variety of projects, including the recent $10 million revamp of Fran Rish Stadium for the Rich land School District.
Education is its bread and butter, but it keeps a hand in a va riety of projects, working within a 120 miles of the Tri-Cities.
Fran Rish is finished, but Chervenell’s plate is full and it has enough work to keep it busy, said Brandon Mayfield, president. Its current roster includes the $31 million rebuild of Kennewick’s Ridge View Elementary, convert ing hotels in Pasco and Walla Walla into apartments and a new Goodwill store in College Place.
Mayfield is mindful of the challenges. Clients worry about rising costs and if the time is right
to proceed. Tough conditions favor established firms such as Chervenell with their resources to tame the peaks, he said.
“In general, people who are looking to build have to under stand where the market is and develop realistic budgets and ex pectations. As a general contrac tor, our job is to help with that process,” he said.
So far, he doesn’t see signs of a downturn.
“In real downturns, the bid op portunities disappear,” he said. “A lot of folks are worried that we’re driving toward a cliff. But I don’t think so for us locally.”
Locally, government-spon sored construction eased as most big budget projects wrap up and there’s a lull before new ones start.
The $17 billion Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, better known as the vitrifi cation plant, is built and work is shifting to treating waste.
The Kennewick, Pasco and Richland school districts are wrapping up projects funded in their last rounds of voterapproved bonds.
For now, the region is awash in private construction.
Two Amazon Inc. warehouses are nearly complete in east Pasco, as is a new food processing center for Reser’s Fine Foods.
In addition to Darigold, a private developer has proposed a warehouse park with 2 million square feet near Amazon. A mile or so away, Montana-based Local Bounti Inc. has resumed work to prepare its east Pasco site for a future greenhouse complex.
From Pasco to Prosser, build ers are repositioning old hotels into micro apartments and constructing new apartments, strip malls and other facilities to accommodate the region’s grow
The public sector work has slowed, but not halted. President Joe Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill in late 2021. The 2022 Washington Legislature approved a $16.9 billion transpor tation package earlier this year.
Together, the spending bills could unleash a wave of public investment in civic infrastructure that only will swell if Pasco and Richland school district voters approve new bonds in 2023. Each wants to build a third high school and other educational facilities.
Cities and local government haven’t stopped building.
The city of Pasco advertised for bids to upgrade a water process ing plant and to build a new fire station in September. It is also taking steps to build a new animal control facility. Prosser is replac
ing its old hospital and work continues on Pasco’s Lewis Street overpass, Kennewick’s Ridgeline Drive underpass, a new energy research facility at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland and a new admin istrative office for Ben Franklin Transit.
Richland is extending Center Parkway across railroad tracks near Columbia Center to link Tapteal Drive in Richland with Gage Boulevard in Kennewick. Too, Richland is marketing its Horn Rapids area and prepar ing to ready City View near Queensgate for developers. Old Trapper, a Portland-area jerky manufacturer, plans to construct a processing plant in the city.
Also in Richland, the Port of Benton began work on a build ing that will form the heart of future STEM science tourism and serve as a home for the Hanford
History Project. The Washington Military Department, having completed its $15 million Rich land Readiness Center, now is making plans to construct a sec ond edition of its Youth Academy on the same property in Horn Rapids.
AGC fears contractors will struggle to complete projects because of supply chain issues and labor shortages, according to a summer survey conducted with AutoDesk. Participants identified labor shortages as a top issue.
According to the survey, 82% of firms say projects have been delayed because of supply chain issues and 66% said they have been delayed over labor short ages.
More than 90% cited hiring issues and more than 75% said finding qualified workers who could pass drug tests was a top challenge. In Washington state, 100% of the firms surveyed said they had job openings and were having trouble filling them.
“Construction workforce shortages are severe and having a significant impact on construc tion firms of all types, all sizes and all labor arrangements,” said Ken Simonson, AGC’s chief economist. “These workforce shortages are compounding the challenges firms are having with supply chain disruptions that are inflating the cost of construction materials and making delivery schedules and product availability uncertain.”
The Tri-Cities isn’t spared the issues affecting other communi ties, but its heavy reliance on federal spending at the Hanford site coupled with robust food manufacturing helps isolate it.
“As you know we are quite unique in general,” said Ajsa
Suljic, regional labor economist for the Washington Employment Security Department, which tracks job trends and unemploy ment claims.
Local construction employ ment stood at 11,400 in July, up 1,000 since 2019, the last year before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are running one of the highest construction numbers we have seen in Tri-City history. We have not seen that movement in construction jobs like that before,” she said.
Suljic said the actual number of people working in construc tion is far higher than the official numbers suggest. ESD counts workers covered by unemploy ment insurance. Self-employed workers who aren’t covered by unemployment insurance add another 50% to the total.
She credited residential con struction for the increase rather than commercial. But it primed the pump for contractors, who hire based on word of mouth, she said.
“That’s how construction has operated. We don’t have training for all the trades. But most of the training is done for individuals who come in and work hard. So, the market is tight, but the friendof-a-friend hiring approach is a strong propeller for employment. It’s similar to agriculture,” she said.
Bouchey, of AGC, said the labor shortage is a national, ongoing challenge that won’t be resolved until young adults see trades as viable careers. That said, general labor shortages have driven up wages, making it more attractive.
“We have fast food offering signing bonuses, so contractors have to adapt to that,” he said.
“Here, locally, we’ve added more jobs. But we have long-term needs.” ●
Port of Benton
Port invests in education, infrastructure to support tourismBY ROBIN WOJTANIK
The Port of Benton has been busy investing in promoting economic development in Richland, Prosser, Benton City and Benton County.
The Richland-based port, has been welcoming new businesses, supporting workforce develop ment and improving infrastruc ture.
In Prosser, a triple ribbon-cut ting in mid-September provided a belated celebration for businesses located in Vintners Village, a retail plaza opened by the port.
The event represented contin ued growth at the site, following a second phase of the plaza on Port Avenue, with the arrival of three new businesses that opened during the pandemic: Cork and Taps by Domanico Cellars, Sister to Sister on the Ave. and Wautoma Springs winery.
“The new tasting rooms and gift shop are vital to the commu nity’s economic growth and attract visitors from around the region,”
said Diahann Howard, the port’s executive director. The port serves 57,000 Benton County residents.
The “walkable wine village” includes a dozen local businesses and the office for the Prosser Eco nomic Development Association.
This is the second Prosser loca tion for Sister to Sister, a popular boutique.
“The Port of Benton had space available that we could have not only warehouse space, but we could build a bakery as well,” said M’liss Bierlink, owner of Sister to Sister. “Then there’s an upstairs which we will be using for an online store. The stipulation as a tenant was that we needed to have a presence for tourists and people to come because that’s why they built those buildings, and so that’s what prompted us to do the storefront.”
A month prior to the ribboncutting, the port also welcomed Tirridis, a sparkling wine com pany, and Narratif, a family-owned wine company that moved into a space once occupied by Wit Cel
The port also was able to shine a spotlight on Prosser in spring 2022 during the TBEX conference for travel content creators.
“We supported the TBEX North America event that was delayed a year by Covid,” said Miles Thomas, executive director of the Tri-Cities Research District and director of economic development & government affairs for the port. “We sponsored a full-day outing the last day of the conference in Prosser.”
The Port of Benton is a public entity governed by three com missioners, two elected and one appointed to fill a vacancy. The port serves an area that extends from Richland to Prosser. It has a budget of $18.4 million, with revenue derived from lease pay ments, property taxes and grants. It spends 60% of its budget on capital projects, 20% on operations and 4% on debt.
The port is supporting the
local wine industry and other future economic growth through a partnership with Washington State University Tri-Cities’ Carson College of Business to sponsor some of the school’s upcoming programs along with Richland and Visit Tri-Cities.
“This will be for folks to par ticipate in certificate-based skill programs, to be able to take as a series of courses all resulting in a certificate you can apply toward upskilling in your job,” Thomas said.
There will be a wide range of opportunities, including some taught at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, led by the wine servers at the WSU hospital ity program.
“Each course has been designed in collaboration with industry professionals, starting with an in dustry needs assessment, develop ment of topics and outcomes, and, finally, testing the course,” Thomas
said. Three courses will be offered this fall: certificates for wine tasting room server, cultivating service excellence, and fundamen tals of business.
In addition, a course specifically designed for managers or own ers, Financial Well-being of the Organization, is scheduled for
fall. This course will be delivered online with live training sessions and organization-specific applica tion activities.
“We see this as an ongoing workforce development program that builds on WSU’s operation of the Clore facility,” Thomas said. “We’ve been working with WSU to identify additional courses that
would be able to be offered at the Clore Center just by virtue of its location and relationship with the wine industry.”
Clore event space
As a partner in the project, the port also manages event rentals of the facility.
“We’ve had it rented out pretty regularly over the past year or two to Washington wine and hospital ity organizations,” Thomas said. “The Washington Wine Commis sion had board meetings there this year and Washington Wine growers offered an educational course. It’s been fantastic to see a much greater focus on education and support to the wine industry.”
Hanford History Project
The region’s STEM tourism also has been a driver of econom ic growth and it was hoped the Hanford History Project would have been finished by this point,
but continued supply chain delays held up construction, now esti mated to wrap in the first quarter of 2023.
The $2 million project at Port of Benton Boulevard will house items currently stored at Wash ington State University Tri-Cities.
“The building can come together pretty quickly because it’s largely shelving for archival storage along with offices for the archivists, program manager and interns,” Thomas said.
This is the first phase with oth ers planned once grant funding is secured.
“We are looking to locate more of our tenants in that facility that are related to Hanford history,” Thomas said. Materials could include items related to the USS Triton Sail Park, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and the new LIGO Hanford Ex ploratory Center, or LExC.
“It’s continually evolving as
we add components, but we’re just making sure we have enough space in the whole site plan to add the things we’d like to see there as the opportunity to fund them becomes available.”
Thomas said the next phase could begin in a couple years, but the project is a long-term develop ment.
A lengthy effort to regain control of high-traveled railroad crossings finally allowed the port to rehab a Richland intersection during a multi-day closure in August, adding new panels, rail ties and repaving.
The crossing at Van Giesen Street and Highway 224 was the source of frequent complaints.
“It’s been a huge project that we often get comments about, that was neglected with deferred maintenance for so many years by our former rail operator,” Thomas
said. The port evicted its longtime rail tenant and short-line opera tor, Tri-City Railroad, after it fell behind on maintenance for many years.
“Since we have the rail back in our control, we are making significant investments to help us make those crossings safer, and a little quicker,” he said.
Thomas said the improve ments may not be perceptible to most drivers but could reduce wait times by up to three minutes by allowing trains to move 5 mph faster.
The port recently replaced the crossing at Swift Boulevard and Cemetery Road, at the entrance to Sunset Gardens. Work on the Highway 240 crossing is planned for next year.
Other crossings had seen more recent improvements by the Port of Benton intervening and budgeting for it. By the end of the year, a request for proposals will go out for a permanent rail operator, currently run by interim operator, Railworks.
From rail to air travel, the port manages the Richland Airport, a site of many upgrades and investments in the past five years. From new hangars, an updated entryway, repaving and now new navigational lighting, the airport has benefitted from more than $8 million in investments.
A full replacement of the entire electrical system, including all runway and taxiway lights, is being funded by a $3.2 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. Work being done by Sierra Electric is expected to finish in November.
The port is seeking fund ing with state partners on an Advanced Energy Center to be built near the Pacific Northwest
The project is part of a state wide coalition applying to the Economic Development Admin istration to invest in innovation clusters.
“If we are successful, we have letters of commitment from one large private business to lease space for laboratory production and carbon recapture and that would also provide a space for us to work with WSU Tri-Cities
and Columbia Basin College on programming related to clean energy degrees and certificates,” Thomas said.
A second grant application, pending with the city of Rich land, seeks funding for electrical transmission expansion to make properties at the north end of Richland more suitable for new development to keep investing in projects that promote economic growth in Benton County. ●
Port of Kennewick
Vista Field is ready to welcome development, with 21 lots listed for sale at what the Port of Kennewick calls a “pedestrian-focused regional town center”. | Courtesy Port of Kennewick
Plenty of room for new developmentsBY LAURA KOSTAD
Land for sale at Vista Field, Columbia Gardens and soon Clover Island could bring a variety of developments to Kennewick in the coming year and beyond.
The Port of Kennewick’s real estate portfolio offers prime loca tions in the city’s center, down town area and along the river.
The first phase of construction wrapped at Vista Field, and the port is now marketing lots there and at Columbia Gardens Urban Wine & Artisan Village. The last phase of shoreline restoration on Clover Island is nearing comple tion, enabling new lots to hit the market soon.
“Things are rolling along well, but we have to keep things in perspective – we have a really strange economic market in front
of us,” said longtime port CEO Tim Arntzen.
He noted the pandemic, supply chain challenges and shortages, the ripple effects of wars abroad and new disease outbreaks, infla tion and increasing interest rates.
Despite these challenges and uncertainties, the port is prepared to be patient to welcome the de velopments that will be the best fit for the community.
The port is a public entity serv ing a population of 151,124 and extends from Kennewick to West Richland. It is governed by three elected commissioners and has an operating budget of $3.7 million, a capital budget of $5 million and receives about $4.5 million in property tax revenues.
Vista Field on the market
The 21 lots in the 20-acre first phase of the Vista Field redevel
opment have officially hit the market.
Arntzen said a local builder walked the site with port staff, en visioning a pocket neighborhood comprised of four to 16 clustered houses sharing central gardens. Another imagined live-above shop space.
Other proposals were inspired by the business-amplifying synergy that will come from repurposing two of three aircraft hangars into outdoor pavilions for visitors to enjoy pop-up events and performances at the adjoining plaza.
The 103-acre former munici pal airport is located east of the Toyota Center and Three Rivers Convention Center.
The port had entertained other strategies for making use of the hangars, but, as Arntzen ex plained, those aren’t a reality.
Subscribe to print edition at tcjournal.biz
“You can’t build them up (under) the new energy codes, so there’s no way to turn them into a restaurant or microbrewery. The numbers were just stunning. Outdoor pavilions and seating were the economical way to go while still preserving the history,” he said.
A third hangar will become a tenant space.
Intentionally blurred zoning within the development allows for a more creative mix of proposals.
“We are willing to talk to any body and everybody, but it is nice to see this first round of interest coming from local,” Arntzen said. He hopes the port’s first sale will be solidified by Thanksgiving.
He said he is particularly inter ested in working with developers wanting to build more modestly priced housing.
“I have a soft spot for people who want to own their first home and seniors downsizing – they need to actually have a chance,” he said, noting that it’s a potential barrier across the Tri-Cities and beyond. “This is a problem we have to solve.”
Though he emphasized that all types of housing are welcome at Vista Field, he envisions cottagestyle homes ranging from 1,300 to 1,400 square feet and a lot of walkable public areas, green space and nearby amenities.
“Part of the beauty of Vista Field is it’s supposed to be a place where all groups can choose to be there – all income levels, all ethnic backgrounds, all political persuasions, everyone. It’s a place that’s going to give everyone an opportunity,” he said.
No one wants to see the site turn into a series of strip malls, he said.
“I think we can keep our fin gers on the pulse of the project in collaboration with the builders to keep the course … We’re going to
stay true and keep our eye on the north star set by the community,” he said.
“We will leave money on the table if it’s not a good fit. It takes time.”
In the meantime, visitors to Vista Field can enjoy walking the paved paths along a meandering stream and crossing it via bridge overlooks. Some areas feature
steps so kids and adults alike can dip their feet and play.
“I think (Vista Field) really can be an icon for our community,” Arntzen said.
Columbia Gardens lots
Development opportunities are waiting along Columbia Drive at Columbia Gardens in downtown Kennewick.
Swampy’s Barbecue, a tenant at the site’s food truck plaza, soon will be breaking ground on a brickand-mortar shop to better facilitate catering operations and serve customers.
Other lots are still available with more opportunities coming soon, thanks to The Willows and former Cable Greens, sites that bookend the property.
Previously, plans for the 7-acre Willows property had included a culinary school operated by Columbia Basin College and public-facing eateries run by stu dents. The plans fizzled, offering possibilities for other developers.
Arntzen can see the former Cable Greens become a residential development.
“If I were inclined to move … I would love to go live by the cable bridge. I would build a two-story so that I could have Duffy’s Pond access out my back door and a bal cony upstairs where I could enjoy
a glass of wine and views of the cable bridge lit up at night. That’s prime property,” he said.
Other developments include a new winery, Muret-Gaston Winery, which shares a building with Gordon Estate; the wrapping of utility boxes with artwork; a mural commissioned by neighbor ing KIE Supply Corp. on the wall facing Columbia Gardens, which complements the other art instal lations; and the addition of signage on blue “tourist information” road signs along local highways.
Over the summer, three Saturday pop-up vendor events were held and the port plans to continue those in the future.
The Port of Kennewick is preparing to list vacant lots for lease on Clover Island by the first of the year, following completion of the final segment of shoreline restoration.
“It’s almost done,” Arntzen said, noting that progress relies on timeframes provided by the fluctu ating level of the river.
Earlier in the year, a developer approached the port with plans to buy the Clover Island Inn and convert it into micro apartments. The deal fell apart when the port refused to sell the land the inn occupies.
Arntzen said the vast majority of 600 comments the port received encouraged it to stand by its policy of not selling land on Clover Is land.
Arntzen said finding the right developers can take time.
“You have to get that first sale in, and then the phone won’t stop ringing. Like anything in life, don’t panic; we don’t want to get in our own way and stumble … We want to be thoughtful but also have to be aggressively patient and get the right builders in,” he said. ●
Port of Pasco Industrial parks approach capacityBY WENDY CULVERWELL
The Port of Pasco has created not one but two industrial parks in recent years.
And both are running out of land to sell to food processors and other companies interested in building facilities in the Mid-Co lumbia region.
The Pasco Industrial Center 395, or PIC395, and Reimann Industrial Center are the newest additions to the port’s roster of industrial parks – developmentready sites where businesses can move quickly on expansion plans.
Both are nearly sold out.
PIC395, with 93 acres, is home to Reser’s Fine Foods’ new 50,000-square-foot processing plant and is the potential future home for two transportation com panies. That leaves 25 acres on the market.
Reimann has 300 acres, with half already sold to Darigold Inc. The Seattle-based dairy coop erative held a ceremonial ground breaking in September for its $600
million milk-drying plant and excavators were expected not long after. That leaves 150 acres avail able.
Randy Hayden, the port’s executive director, said there is significant interest in both parks and in Reser’s former facility, a 110,000-square-foot plant at the Pasco Processing Center.
“That leaves us looking for our next piece of land,” he said.
It will be some time before that happens, though. The port’s re sources are committed to installing utilities and other infrastructure to support Darigold and a separate cold storage facility planned on the same site. The plant is expected to add 200 jobs to the market.
The port doesn’t have much space to lease otherwise. It has 1.8 million square feet of industrial space in its portfolio. Occupancy stands at more than 98%.
The crunch is a sign of just how popular Pasco has become with food processors and other indus trial operators in recent years.
The Pasco port advances eco nomic development by creating
industrial centers for future busi nesses and by operating for-lease facilities, a container terminal, and the Tri-Cities Airport.
It is also promoting mixed-use development on property it owns at Osprey Pointe along the Colum bia River, where it has its adminis trative offices.
The port is a public entity serving a population of more than 96,700 and is governed by a threemember elected commission. It has a total budget of $78.9 mil lion, which includes an operating budget of $22.7 million and $56.2 million in capital expenditures and cash reserves. Property taxes account for $2.6 million of its total revenue.
Fees and grants represent the balance of its revenue.
The port’s service area cov ers most but not all of Franklin County.
The port created PIC395 on North Capitol Avenue east of Highway 395 in 2021 to accom modate Reser’s, a longtime partner
that built its original plant in 1998. Reser’s took 38 acres, leaving 55.
Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. and UPS both have signed purchase-sale agreements for 17and 12-acre sites, respectively. Both are performing due diligence and the deals have not closed.
Reser’s began processing potatoes at its new building this summer and listed its old 110,000-square-foot plant for $15 million.
Reimann Industrial Center
The port paid $6.5 million for the 300-acre former Balcom and Moe Inc. land off Highway 395 in late 2019 for its Reimann Industrial Center. The name honors the late Ron Reimann, a port commission er who died in a vehicle accident in 2017.
In 2021, Darigold Inc. an nounced it had selected Reimann for its next plant, setting off a com plicated round of negotiations to
raise the $21 million needed to pay for public infrastructure such as roads and utilities to accommodate the company’s needs.
The port financed bonds to pay its share. Property taxes on the new development will repay the debt.
Darigold is expected to begin operations in 2024. The company is enlisting a third party to develop a cold storage facility on its prop erty.
The port selected JMS Con struction to convert its 55-acre riverfront Osprey Pointe property into a mixed-use neighborhood with commercial and residential development. JMS envisions a pub lic market, 1,100 residential units, restaurants and other commercial development on the property.
James Sexton, JMS Construc tion’s owner, said he’s waiting for permits to begin the first phase, which will include the marketplace,
residential development and a mixed-use building with both rent als and commercial space.
“We just have to get the city to say ‘yes,’ ” he said.
JMS intended to start with the public market building. Sexton said Washington’s new energy codes added about $2.5 million cost to the project. He is attempting to get it reclassified as a “mall,” which won’t require the same energy fea tures and would preserve the open air concept of the initial plan.
He intends to complete under ground utility work over the winter and to build homes and other structures in early 2023.
The port owns and operates the region’s only commercial airport, which is served by United, Alaska, Delta, Avelo and Allegiant airlines on the west side of the 2,235-acre property and is host to a lively general aviation community on the
Aha!, a startup that launched with service to Reno in late 2021, halted operations in August after its parent, ExpressJet, filed for bankruptcy.
The airport has been in recovery mode since 2021 after traffic fell sharply in the first year of the pan demic as travel ground to a halt.
In September, boardings were tracking toward 350,000 for 2022, which is still below the record 438,000 set in 2019.
Hayden said he’s pleased the numbers are returning to pre pandemic levels and noted flight schedules have changed.
There are fewer seats available at the Tri-Cities airport. But the air planes are fuller than normal. The load factor tops 90% on all flights, which is very unusual, he said.
In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the port a $750,000 grant to pursue a direct flight to Dallas-Fort Worth Inter
national Airport. It is no guarantee such a flight will be added to the schedule, but it is similar to the ef fort that led United to begin offer ing service to Los Angeles Interna tional Airport in March 2019.
Hayden said wooing an airline to consider adding a run could take two years.
In other airport-related news, the port is finalizing a lease agree ment with Solgen Solar, Pasco’s fast-growing solar installation company.
Solgen announced it will invest $5 million to construct two build ings on leased land at the Tri-Cities Airport Business Center, an 86acre site west of the main airport terminal.
Solgen intends to build a 100,000-square-foot operations facility on Rickenbacker Road. The second building will be a 10,000-square-foot hangar with airport access and offices for executives.
The state Community Economic Revitalization Board has com mitted nearly $3 million through its Committed Private Partner Program to extend a taxiway and Rickenbacker Road each by 2,000 feet, subject to Solgen Power’s lease being signed. Solgen, which previously constructed a $6 million office building in west Pasco, is expected to invest $5 million in its airport facility.
It is currently a tenant at the 370-acre Big Pasco Industrial Center.
The road and taxiway exten sions will open more lots in the airport park to both aviation and nonaviation tenants.
The Airport Business Center has 21 lots for executive hangars and 47 for commercial, retail and other uses. To date, eight have been completed or are in development.
Go to portofpasco.org and flytricities.com. ●
CBC, WSU Tri-Cities celebrate new buildings, plan for the futureBY JEFF MORROW
Columbia Basin College and Washington State University Tri-Cities each completed a major addition in the past year. The construction crews have moved on, but the two schools are busy contemplat ing what they need to serve the higher education needs of the Mid-Columbia.
Columbia Basin College in Pasco debuted its Student Recre ation and Wellness Center in late May. WSU Tri-Cities in Richland opened its latest academic build ing, Collaboration Hall, in late 2021.
Both campuses reopened to inperson classes in November 2021 after the pandemic forced them to operate remotely.
Columbia Basin College
When students returned to
campus in late 2021, there was still about six months of con struction left on the $35 million recreation building on the south side of campus. Pandemic-related slowdowns prevented it from opening on time, but by the fol lowing spring, it was ready.
In 2018, the CBC student body voted to support the project by agreeing to levy a $50 per quarter fee on future students. The proj ect replaced a gym that was in its seventh decade.
It is a significant upgrade for students and staff. CBC enrolled 7,280 students in spring 2022, of which 3,920 were full-time students.
As users get acquainted with the new recreation center and its myriad of amenities for athletes, administrators are pursuing funds for the other projects identified in a 2017 master plan drafted by the Columbia Basin College Founda
Next on its list is an update to the school library and a new agriculture facility.
Renovating the school library will cost about $3.1 million, said Rebekah Woods, CBC’s president.
CBC also has submitted the agriculture building through the Community and Technical Col lege System.
Woods hopes funding will be approved within the next six years.
CBC has an operating budget of $59 million, said Elizabeth Burtner, CBC’s interim assistant vice president for communica tions and external relations.
The new recreation center is worth celebrating.
Construction began in Sep tember 2020 with the removal of the tennis courts on the south side of campus.
RGU Architecture and Plan
ning was the design firm. Lydig Construction was the general contractor.
The 80,000-square-foot, twostory athletic and exercise facility is packed with amenities cater ing to all types of activity, from a weight room and fitness center to basketball courts and a video gaming “esports” room with low lighting and 12 stations.
All CBC students and staff can use it.
The esports lounge is a new addition to the recreation lineup. To get it right, Scott Rogers, athletic director, and his team traveled to Boise to observe an esports competition between Uni versity of Nevada and Boise State University.
The new building features:
• Team meeting rooms over looking the main court.
• A lounge where players can eat and rest.
• A computer lounge.
• Offices for coaches.
• A balcony overlooking the CBC soccer field.
• A 12,000-square-foot fitness center.
• Weight room.
• Bigger locker rooms with private shower stalls.
Three large gymnasiums ac commodate indoor soccer, pick leball, basketball, a practice gym and Holden Court, a 1,300-seat court named for Cheryl Holden, CBC women’s basketball coach who led the program to four Northwest Athletic Conference championships during her 200114 tenure as coach.
Holden is currently CBC’s vice president of student services.
The Northwest Athletic Conference, which oversees community college athletics in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, selected CBC to host its men’s and women’s basketball champi onships each for the next three
years. The tournaments are held in March.
Dave Hickman, of the CBC Department of Enterprise Ser vices, oversaw construction on land already owned by CBC.
The new facility coupled with student-focused housing at Sun hawk Hall nearby could help CBC attract more student-athletes.
Student-athlete numbers rose this fall to 185 from 165.
The public may get a chance to use the building in the future. However, Rogers wants current CBC students whose fees are pay ing the bond debt associated with construction to get the first crack.
“I’ve been inundated with requests to open up the facility,” he said.
CBC held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in September.
Another CBC highlight oc curred in March 2022, when Battelle, which operates Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, awarded the CBC Foundation a $57,000 grant to buy 48 Nikon Eclipse Ei digital microscopes.
The microscopes support life science studies for students in nursing, medical assisting,
phlebotomy, pre-med and related programs.
WSU Tri-Cities is still celebrat ing its most recent addition, Col laboration Hall. The $30 million academic building opened on Sept. 27, 2021.
As the name indicates, the 40,000-square-foot building is designed with collaboration in mind, with plenty of space for students and faculty to gather.
The design is winning national recognition.
In August 2022, the DesignBuild Institute of America named it one of 30 winners of its 2022 National Design-Build Project Team/Awards. Collaboration Hall was a “merit” winner in the education facilities.
It is now under consideration for the National Award of Excel lence and Project of the Year at the DBIA’s upcoming conference, to be held in November in Las Vegas.
The building contains class rooms as well as labs for physics, biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, geology and other disciplines. There is an open
lobby dominated by a wooden staircase that doubles as theater seating.
Outside, the building fronts a new amphitheater and the latest artwork installed at the Richland
campus, a cougar sculpture.
ZGF Architecture of Portland and Hoffman Construction built the project, which was funded by the state.
WSU Tri-Cities reported an
8.2% drop in total enrollment between fall 2021 and fall 2022, to 1,430 students from 1,558.
First-year and transfer students declined by 7.7% and 1.8%, respectively. WSU Tri-Cities said its population consists of 50% students of color and 46% firstgeneration college students.
The branch campus’ operating budget for the 2022-23 school year is $22 million.
Beyond Richland, WSU TriCities agreed to work with the Port of Benton to offer wine and culinary education at the newly reopened Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser in late 2021. The center fell vacant after the previous operator shut down, prompting the port to seek a new partner.
Too, WSU Tri-Cities and Washington River Protection Solutions are teaming to create a cooperative work experience program to prepare students to be the next generation employees for WRPS.
The collaboration provides academic and professional oppor tunities for growth and devel opment while helping selected students build the skills necessary for full-time employment with WRPS post-graduation.
As part of the partnership, WRPS donated $250,000 to WSU Tri-Cities.
Up to 10 students will receive full-time paid summer employ ment and continue working part time during the school year in their chosen fields.
The 2022-23 cohort consists of six students studying computer science, mechanical engineer ing, electrical engineering, civil engineering, and environmental and ecosystems sciences.
As bonds projects wrap up, 2 districts consider new bond requestsBY JEFF MORROW
The three biggest school districts in the TriCities have a lot in common. Richland, Pasco and Kennewick each passed major bonds for new schools and other improvements in the years prior to the pandemic. In late 2022, all three were wrapping up these bond-authorized projects.
Pasco and Richland expect to ask their respective voters to authorize new bonds in 2023 to keep up with growing enroll ments, particularly at the high school level.
Here is what the largest dis tricts are working on. Richland School District
Richland School District voters approved a $99 million bond in 2017, which leveraged $42 mil lion in matching state funds. The last of the projects are wrapping up, said Ty Beaver, district com munications director.
Fran Rish Stadium at Richland High School and the new Badger Mountain Elementary are both
in use, though work crews are fin ishing up details.
The new Badger Mountain Elementary cost $26.8 million and was completed in the sum mer 2022.
The school was built on the former site of the old Badger Mountain Elementary School, 1515 Elementary Way. The new school, at 65,000 square feet, includes 28 regular classrooms; three classrooms for special edu cation; and multipurpose, art and music spaces.
The Fran Rish Stadium up dates at Richland High were com plete in August, just in time for the Richland High football season opener against the Southridge Suns on Sept. 3.
The $10 million effort paid for new artificial turf, track and home-side grandstand bleachers, as well as new restrooms, locker rooms and training spaces.
Design West Architects and DA Haugen were in charge of the design. Chervenell Construction was the contractor.
The same team gave the Han
ford High School athletic fields a $5.5 million upgrade, courtesy of the same 2017 bond package. Updates included artificial turf on the football field, new track surface, a 2,000-seat grandstand, new press box, restrooms and concession building. The complex got a new entrance and overall upgrades to support people with disabilities.
The project started in 2018 and wrapped up in October 2021.
Looking ahead, Richland plans to build a third high school to keep up with enrollment growth. The board was ironing out details of the package in late September and had not finalized an election date or list of projects.
The board is weighing a third comprehensive high school at a site in West Richland and expan sions of its existing high schools as well as middle and elementary schools.
The district continues to grow.
In the 2021-22 school year, there were 13,700 students – kin dergarten through high school se niors – in the district. The school
district employed 1,700 certified and classified staff members with an operating budget of $212 mil lion for the current school year.
Pasco School District
With 18,612 students and 2,663 employees in 2021-22, the Pasco School District shows little sign of slowing down.
To keep up, it is asking voters to approve a bond on the Feb. 14, 2023, ballot. If approved, the district will issue bonds and repay them with proceeds from increased property taxes.
The bond would fund:
• A comprehensive high school No. 3 serving 2,000 students at Road 60 and Burns Road.
• A small, innovative high school that would house 600 students in east Pasco.
• A new softball field at Pasco High School.
• Modernizing learning spaces for the career and technical education (CTE) programs at both Pasco and Chiawana high schools.
• Purchasing land for future developments.
Like the other two major school districts in the Tri-Cities, Pasco is working on the last of its projects from the most recent bond measure, the $99 million 2017 bond.
The Transportation Facilities and Maintenance Bays project – $1.6 million for maintenance bays, $1.4 million for the trans portation facility. The facility at 3412 Stearman Ave. will have 29,997 square feet of space.
The project will add two pullthrough bus mechanic bays and replace the transportation office and drivers’ areas with a single, insulated metal building.
It also will update the current maintenance facility.
It is needed, officials say, because the district services 162 buses in three single-bus me chanic bays.
Pasco has a 47-to-1 buses-tobay ratio, compared to Kenne wick’s 25-to-1, and Richland’s 20-to-1.
The transportation office and driver facilities are currently housed in two portable buildings,
and they’re undersized to house 153 staff members.
Meanwhile, the maintenance facility supports the work of 30 maintenance workers – carpen ters, plumbers and electricians –and 75 custodians.
The facility has already been named the Richard L. Lenhart Transportation Center.
Pasco’s operating budget for the 2022-23 school year is $316 million.
Kennewick School District
The Kennewick School District is completing the final projects approved by voters in its 2019 bond measure.
The biggest is a total replace ment of Ridge View Elementary School, 7001 W. 13th Ave. The $31 million project included tearing down the old school and replacing it with a two-story modern structure with 30 class rooms.
Chervenell Construction is the contractor.
The new school is expected to open between January and July 2024.
The bond also funded a new elementary school, but that isn’t being pursued, said Robyn Chas tain, executive director for com munications and public relations for the district.
“The location and timing of that project will be determined by enrollment growth and eligibility for state construction assistance funding,” she said. The cost is still to be determined.
There is one additional project ongoing that is not part of the bond funding: the Tri-Tech Skills Center project that is being called Tri-Tech East Phase 1.5.
The estimated $3.5 million project will add two classrooms with adjoining lab space and sup port space, totaling about 9,500 square feet.
The addition, which will be located just south of the exist ing Tri-Tech East building, will alleviate growing pains in its pre-veterinary technology and pre-electrical programs, provid ing more suitable instructional space.
The Tri-Tech campus is at 5929 W. Metaline Ave. in Ken newick. The regional cooperative school is owned by the Pasco, Richland, Finley, Columbia-Bur bank, Kiona-Benton City, North Franklin and Prosser school dis tricts. It serves as a branch cam pus for all the area high schools by providing CTE programs.
Meanwhile, several Ken newick schools are eligible for state funds to assist with remod els and expansions: Highlands Middle School, Horse Heaven Hills Middle School, Hawthorne Elementary and Washington Elementary.
As for the next bond measure,
that’s still undecided.
Kennewick voters twice re jected an operations levy request in 2022. The district plans to try again in 2023.
“Our first priority is to pass the educational programs and operations levy next year,” Chas tain said.
The Educational Programs and Operations levy could go to voters on the Feb. 14, 2023,
ballot. Operations levies fund day-to-day activities, not capital projects.
The district enrolled 18,684 students in the 2021-22 school year and employed 3,043 staff members – of which 1,334 were certified and 1,126 classified.
The operating budget for the 2022-23 school year in the Ken newick School District is $285 million. ●
City of Kennewick
A focus on infrastructure paves way for future growthBY LAURA KOSTAD
at 85,320 residents strong, continues to expand, develop and reinvent.
“If you drive around our city, you can really see that we have progress and projects happen ing across all areas of Kennewick and there’s synergy. I think that’s important,” said Evelyn Lusignan, the city's director of public rela tions and government affairs.
The city’s population has grown 15% over the past 12 years, but growth slowed 0.6% from 2020-21, according to U.S. Census data.
Kennewick remains the king of retail sales, with $646 million recorded for the first quarter of
2022, up 5.6% over the previous year’s quarter. Taxable retail sales are transactions subject to the retail sales tax, including sales by retailers, the construction in dustry, manufacturing and other sectors.
The city issued 11% fewer building permits for single-family homes through August 2022 compared to the previous year, but Lusignan said home construc tion is still booming around the biggest city in the Tri-Cities.
Multifamily homes are under construction at Hansen Park and more are planned around the city.
The Southridge area also saw an explosion of new homes, espe cially along the rapidly develop ing Bob Olson Parkway.
It’s not just the southern edge of town that’s growing.
In the downtown area, private investors opened The Public Market @ Columbia River Ware house, which Lusignan calls a link in the downtown revitalization chain.
“It’s helped make the connec tion between the core historic downtown area to the waterfront … We really applaud those busi nesses that took the first step and made the investment to be there,” she said.
Summer’s Hub, a food truck dining destination at 6481 W. Skagit Ave., near Chuck E. Cheese, opened over the summer, offering indoor and outdoor seat
ing as well as an outdoor stage for live performances.
The Port of Kennewick has launched efforts to sell land for development at Vista Field and Columbia Gardens Urban Wine and Artisan Village and soon at Clover Island.
Through the Covid-19 pan demic, projects have kept rolling in, slowing at times, but growth has never stopped, Lusignan said.
Some projects, such as the Three Rivers Convention Center expansion which would include a Broadway-style theater, sevenstory hotel and commercial space, have had their due diligence periods extended.
The replacement of Fire Station #1 at Sixth Avenue and Auburn Street is underway and expected to be complete in a year.
Schools and other critical infrastructure also are continuing to be built anew and updated on a rolling basis, like the Kennewick High remodel and additions, alongside complementary private investments in business.
Lusignan emphasized that it’s also ongoing investment in the infrastructure that the public
doesn’t necessarily see or take note of that enables the commu nity to continue to grow.
“It’s important that citizens see that we’re investing in all of those layers,” she said.
The city’s 2021-22 budget was $421.6 million, and the capital project budget is $68.2 million.
In August 2022, Kennewick began work to upgrade its 26,000 water meters throughout the city, both residential and commer cial, to convert them to modern remote-read “smart” setups.
“Many of our current water meters have reached the end of their useful life and require replacement. The upgrades will include exchanging the current water meters for new meters with Advanced Metering Infra structure (AMI), or replacing registers on newer meters that do not require a full replacement,” Lusignan said.
AMI uses a low-powered com munication device that transmits hourly water usage information over a secure network.
Homes and businesses are
without water for 10 to 15 min utes while the meter or register is replaced. Organizations depen dent on water such as dental of fices can coordinate with the city and its contractor to complete the work at a time that will cause less disruption to business.
After the $10.8 million project wraps up in late 2023, Kennewick residents will be able to track water usage in real time via a software program.
“This will provide valuable consumption information to the city and customers for water conservation efforts and leak detection,” Lusignan said.
Previously, it took staff two months to get readings from the entire city.
“I’ve been with the city for 28 years, and we were talking about doing this in the future when I started,” she said.
Though the technology isn’t new, it took a long time for the hardware to prove itself.
Over the years, the city tested out different meters, but they often failed after a few years due to the damp conditions the instruments were exposed to ei
ther from proximity to irrigation boxes or melting snow. Battery life also has improved.
“It’s very visible and expensive, so we want to make sure it’s going to work and have a high level of confidence,” Lusignan said. “We talked to a lot of cities and had a consultant who helped us make sure we got the right meters and made the right choice.”
While the Ridgeline Drive and Highway 395 underpass project wraps up in the Southridge area, the next big road improvement will be at the Gage Boulevard and Steptoe Street intersection, set to break ground in spring or sum mer 2023.
The project will add double left-turn lanes and single rightturn lanes on all approaches. Ad ditional work includes improving signal operations and updating accessible ramps and lighting.
“A grant through Benton-Franklin Council of Govern ments and the Federal Highway Administra tion has awarded funding to the city to ac quire right of way, provide design engi neering and con struction,” Lusignan said.
When the project opened for bids in July 2022, the city received only one, which was higher than the engineer’s estimate and therefore rejected by the city council. Lusignan said the city will re-advertise the proj ect in December 2022 or January
As early as fall 2023, improve ments to the Deschutes Avenue and Columbia Center Boulevard intersection will begin. Work includes adding a right-turn lane on Deschutes for westbound traffic turning onto Columbia Center Boulevard.
The work precedes the future addition of a third lane for both north and southbound traffic on
The city is preparing for a $29.1 million overhaul of the city’s wastewater treatment plant facilities, due to get underway in summer 2023.
The current setup uses older
treatment technology involv ing open lagoons where treated wastewater sewage goes to settle out. Separated solids are then dredged every few years at a cost of about $1 million and disposed of by an outside contractor, Indiana-based Merrell Brothers.
The planned plant improve ments will convert money out the door into a revenue stream for the city. As city wastewater department workers like to say of the existing odor from the plant: “Smells like money.”
Lagoons will be traded for greenhouses which will take treated wastewater, with most of the liquid pressed out, and dehy drate what’s left into fertilizer that can be sold commercially.
“We will be on the front lines of technology with that plant,” Lusignan said.
The new plant is modeled after FloridaGreen in Florida, built by Merrell Brothers. City officials toured the plant and a small-scale pilot was conducted prior to com mitting to the new concept.
The city plans to accept treated waste from other municipalities to make additional revenue. ●
Get to know Benton-Franklin Title Company
Escrow Office/Licensed Limited Practice Officer
I started my career in Escrow in 1992. I specialize in commercial closings and I have worked on a billion dollar farm transaction and many other smaller farms, hotels, restaurants, other businesses and of course residential. With experience, I am now able to close almost any transaction. The bigger the challenge the better.
Dina McMahon-Jackson Escrow Officer/Assistant Manager
My escrow career started 22 years ago. I have worked at a few different title companies over the years, however Benton-Franklin Title is where I call my forever home. I have worked through very critical times, the busy times, the highs and lows of real estate and market fluctuations. I feel like our market here has stabilized here over the last couple months and the Tri-Cities is still growing and becoming a desirable place to live. The reason I love real estate and Benton-Franklin Title is the relationships we have built over the years and the family style environment that we have here.
Allison Kadinger Escrow Officer/ LPO
• General property information including sales data, purchase price and lot size.
• Property profile (listing package) contains a tax and assessor’s printout, map, recorded documents and CC&Rs upon request.
• Farming information and mailing labels available.
• Notary /courtesy signing.
Title and Escrow Services
• Complete title services with policies and guarantees for owners, lenders and attorneys with competitive rates.
• Residential and commercial closings with a knowledgeable staff with experience in 1031 tax deferred transactions.
• Courtesy signings.
• 1031 Exchanges.
I started my career in Escrow at Benton-Franklin Title in 2018 after graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in Business-Communications. I believe excellent communication is key to every real estate transaction I pride myself in my attention to detail, strong work ethic and great customer service skills while going the extra mile for my clients. As a licensed Limited Practice Officer, my expertise includes residential home re-sales, refinance and home equity loans.
Debbie Taft Escrow Officer
My escrow career started in 1987 at Homestead Title in Hermiston, Oregon. In 1992, I was offered a job at Benton-Franklin Title Company and leapt at the chance to work in a larger market. It was at this time I realized how much I enjoyed working in the title/escrow industry. I have seen many changes over the years but the one constant is the expertise and customer service that Benton-Franklin Title offers their clients. It is a great privilege and one I take very seriously to assist our clients to achieve their dream of homeownership.
City of Pasco
Fast growing community is thinking bigBY WENDY CULVERWELL
Pasco grew by more than a third as 20,000 residents joined the city between 2010 and 2022.
With a current population estimated at 80,180, Pasco is nipping at Kennewick (popula tion 85,320) and is among the fastest-growing communities in the state, according to the Washington Office of Financial Management.
Big growth brings big demand for jobs, housing, schools, civic infrastructure and recreation amenities just to keep up. Pasco is responding on all fronts with commercial and residential construction setting new records from one side of the city to the other.
“There’s a lot going on in
Pasco right now,” said David Zabell, Pasco city manager.
Zabell, who retires in Octo ber, was speaking at grand open ing ceremonies for Reser’s Fine Foods’ new 250,000-square-foot mashed potato processing plant on North Capitol Avenue.
During the ceremony, Re ser’s officials noted construc tion had already started on a 70,000-square-foot addition, where it will produce potato and macaroni salads. The new plant replaces Reser’s 110,000-squarefoot plant at the Pasco Process ing Center, which is now for sale.
Reser’s expansion-uponexpansion is the kind of growth that could propel Pasco into more record-breaking develop ment this year and next.
“Things are still very busy. We have permit value numbers that are comparable to 2021, except for industrial,” said Rick White, the city’s community and eco nomic development director.
Industrial permit activity was only down in the first half of the year because 2021 was an outlier that saw permits issued for the two immense warehouses built for Amazon Inc. on South Road 40 East, near Sacajawea State Park, and for Reser’s.
It would take a lot to top that in 2022.
Amazingly enough, that’s likely to happen. Previously announced projects are being reviewed now, most notably Darigold Inc.’s $600 million milk-drying plant.
Darigold announced its intent
to build in Pasco in 2021, but only broke ground in September 2022 and its grading and foun dation permits were pending. A vendor will build a cold storage facility on its property to sup port Darigold, which promises to be a large project on its own.
Local Bounti, a Montana ag tech startup, resumed site work for its $40 million greenhouse complex, where it will grow lettuce and herbs for the fresh
near the Amazon warehouses this year. Tarragon, the Seattlebased developer, indicated it expected to begin initial con struction by spring 2023.
And that is just industrial development.
Residential subdivisions, re tail plazas, apartment complexes and an ambitious infrastructure update at Road 100-Broadmoor Boulevard are keeping city plan ners busy. White said the city handles the workload with a mix of in-house staff and contrac tors.
Homebuilding has slowed across the Mid-Columbia and Pasco is no exception. Pasco issued 183 permits for singlefamily homes through August, down nearly half from its fiveyear average of 342 over the same period.
But that only tells part of the story. Interest rates are rising, to the detriment of homebuy ers. But the Tri-Cities is grow ing and has a long-standing housing shortage. Development may slow, but informed opinion holds that it will continue.
White said subdivision devel opers are busy creating lots for future homes, chiefly on Pasco’s west side.
produce market. It began the project in the spring, but paused it to focus on a merger with a competitor. The Pasco project has been redesigned, accord ing to company statements, but officials couldn’t be reached to comment on how they have changed.
The city also expects to au thorize permits for an industrial complex with eight buildings totaling 2.1 million square feet
The city is processing subdivi sion proposals for 650 to 700 lots east of Road 68 and for a 220-lot subdivision at Broadmoor. To gether, they offer homebuilders more than 900 residential lots to build on, signaling a revival in homebuilding if demand holds into 2023.
On Pasco’s east side, the Port of Pasco expects JMS Devel opment to break ground on a mixed-use residential and com mercial project at Osprey Pointe. JMS intended to begin with a utility development, a market
and residential and commer cial spaces by early 2023 at the latest.
Pasco has long eyed Broad moor to support its continued growth.
Broadmoor is the general name for the 1,600-plus acres of windswept dunes bordered by Road 100-Broadmoor Boule vard, the Columbia River, Burns Road and Interstate 182.
The city extended sewer service in 2021, ushering in the potential for high-density and commercial development.
“I think 2023 will see a lot of activity in the Broadmoor area,” White said.
The city is supporting it with a $40 million package of road and infrastructure projects funded by tax increment financ ing, in which debt is repaid by property taxes on the new development.
Costco is a reported tenant for the area though the com pany has not confirmed plans for its second Tri-City location. Costco or not, the area is gain ing steam and local streets need to be ready.
“That’s going to be a ton of road improvements to Broad moor, Sandifur,” White said.
The Pasco School District will ask voters to approve a $195.5 million bond in February 2023 to fund two new high schools and other education projects. The school district serves ap proximately 18,600 students.
One would be a traditional, comprehensive school serving 2,000 students. It will be built at Road 60 and Burns Road.
The second is described as a small, innovative school that will serve 600 students and be built on Salt Lake Street near Curie
STEM Elementary in east Pasco.
Pasco High is overenrolled by about 600 students and Chiawana High, which added a handful of portable classrooms this year, is overenrolled by nearly 800 students.
In a nod to future needs, the bond would fund land purchases, if approved.
In February, Pasco voters became the first in the Tri-Cities to approve a modest sales tax hike to pay for a “public facility,” namely, an aquatics center.
The city-sponsored project is governed by a public facili ties board, which recently hired ex-Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins to shepherd the project. It most likely will not break ground in 2023 but watch for Watkins and the facilities board to finalize a site somewhere in the Broad moor area.
In other civic infrastructure news, the city has solicited bids for myriad proj ects, including its long-awaited animal control facility ($5 million), its next (but not last) fire station ($8.5 million) and numerous water and sewer system updates, including a new reservoir.
The $36 million Lewis Street overpass, which replaces the outdated and dangerous under pass that runs below the BNSF Railway line, began in mid-2021 and is expected to open to traffic in fall 2023.
The 2021-22 capital projects budget anticipated nearly $120 million in spending on civic projects. ●
City of Richland
North end draws large commercial, housing projectsBY ROBIN WOJTANIK
An ongoing effort to market and prime the
Horn Rapids area of Richland is paying off as nonstop growth continues at the northern end of the city.
Richland is rewriting its master plan to support ongoing residen tial development while mapping out future commercial and retail projects in Horn Rapids.
“It would further define what’s going to happen west of Kingsgate Way and open up new roads and more projects on that side of Horn Rapids Industrial Park,” said Man dy Wallner, economic development manager for the city of Richland. “This will include establishing new commercial lots along the south side of First Street.”
One of those developments is an Oregon-based jerky company considering the purchase of 20
acres in Horn Rapids with the plan to manufacture its products on the site, bringing the potential of 200 new jobs in the process.
Old Trapper could include a warehouse, office building and manufacturing facility with the ability to expand in the next five years.
The company started in Til lamook, Oregon, and has another manufacturing facility in Forest Grove, Oregon, west of Portland. This could be Old Trapper’s second expansion. Why Richland?
“From a distribution standpoint, we’re in a corridor that’s easy to get to and from,” Wallner said. “I think they know we’re just a booming area and the economy seems to be pretty insulated here.”
Richland expects to add 168 new apartments, also in Horn Rapids, some with a commercial component and some with access to a future public park planned for
“As they finish building out toward Twin Bridges Road, we’re working on an agreement to of fer that next 100 acres with an expected redesign of Twin Bridges Road,” Wallner said.
Richland operates its large, vacant parcels in farm circles to generate revenue for the city to help finance bigger projects, like road construction, for the city of 62,220.
A lengthy effort to build a military readiness center finally wrapped this spring at the Horn Rapids Industrial Park with the completion of a Washington Army National Guard facility.
The $15 million project was a decade in the making due to military funding. Classrooms and conference rooms are available for public use at the center on First Street, also home to a Stryker infantry unit.
Totals down, values up
The frenetic pace of building in Richland is down slightly as the city issued about 13% fewer residential building permits for single-family homes through Au gust compared to last year, though the value of homes is up slightly.
The numbers are similar for commercial remodels, down in total but up in value.
“Commercial construction projects are a few less than last year and the valuations are on track,” Wallner said.
This adds up to total permits being down overall, compared to
shopping complex at its southwest border with West Richland.
The opportunity for low-, me dium- and high-density housing, as well as the potential for a school, exist on the 300-acre site.
Homes built at City View will be within walking distance to a new Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen fried chicken restaurant planned for the Queensgate shopping center just west of Yakima Federal Savings & Loan Association.
The Tri-Cities’ first Popeyes opened this year in Kennewick with long lines, and another loca tion is planned for west Pasco. Whenever a new brand comes into the area, it gets the community excited for additional growth.
“I do know that a lot of retail scouts look at the area,” Wallner said. “They can get a franchise open in multiple locations (across the three cities), and that makes it a hot market. We do our best to reach out and do what we can from a recruitment standpoint.”
The prospect of new construc tion on the former City Hall lot at the corner of Swift Boulevard and George Washington Way also got people excited this summer, but it wasn’t a new development.
last year, but with an overall value up 8% compared to 2021, putting Richland currently at 81% of its projected revenue for the year.
Orchards become lots
Land owned by the state Department of Natural Resources since Washington’s statehood, and most recently leased by an orchard, will soon be carved up and lots made available for development in a section of town called City View.
The city of Richland rezoned the parcels near Duportail Street for commercial, residential and public use by the Queensgate
“We just put in irrigation so the trees wouldn’t die because the city has taken the property off the market, retaining it for future mu nicipal use,” Wallner said. “I would expect at least a portion of it to hit the market again.”
Landscaping and irrigation also are on deck at the former Economy Inn, located in the heart of town.
Richland paid $1.2 million for the hotel and its highly-visible site at 515 George Washington Way.
An inspection found asbestos, as expected, which will be remedi ated prior to a planned demolition by next year.
After the building is torn down,
to landscape the
the property for
municipal use, possibly for
new fire station to replace the aging Station 71, located just up
Around the corner from the Economy Inn, Portland-based Fortify Holdings is remodel ing the former Days Inn at 615 Jadwin Ave., as well as the former Best Western Plus at 1515 George Washington Way, turning the hotels into micro-apartments.
Both buildings have new names. Rob Jacobs, regional manager for Fortify Holdings, said the remodels are “flying through construction.”
The Best Western Plus is now called The Franklin, and its on-site restaurant, La Bella Vita Kitchen & Bar, is open.
Jacobs said construction on the rest of the building should finish by November, with the back wing complete by early next year.
The Meriwether, formerly known as the Days Inn, is expected to be finished in the first months of 2023.
“We do not have rental pricing finalized, but these will lease out for market rate,” said Jacobs, with studios “priced similarly to other studios” in the area. The company has made no further effort to buy 50 Comstock St., the site of another nearby hotel, Riverfront Hotel, it once was interested in.
That property is near empty land visible from George Wash ington Way that’s set to be an apartment complex on Bradley Boulevard. Cedar and Sage Homes is behind The Bradley Apartments, expected to be built “in small pieces,” Wallner said.
The first phase includes a pair of identical buildings valued at $5.7 million.
The three-story complex would include 48 units in the initial phase. The developer’s description of the $40 million project says it
will consist of 160 units, a pool and clubhouse.
Library coffee shop
After years of vacancy, partly due to Covid-19, Kozy Kup, which has a location on Keene Road, is set to reopen the coffee shop within the Richland Public Library. It will partner with Some Bagels, located in the Richland Uptown Shopping Center, to offer its food on the site as well.
No such luck for the former Albertsons on Lee Boulevard which remains vacant years after the store’s liquidation, and Wallner isn’t optimistic that will change. The building is leased through 2036 and contract restrictions prevent another grocery store from occupying the space, she said. Bridge links city
Richland’s investment and the opening of the Duportail Bridge in late 2020 appears to have been
a much-desired option for drivers.
“It’s definitely provided access to both residents and people who don’t live in Richland,” Wallner said. “It’s just a great thor ough fare for every body to get up to Queens gate and West Rich land, and it’s relieved traffic on Wellsian Way and Aaron Drive.”
New growth on Wellsian in cludes a Dutch Bros. with a multitenant building, as well as a $7.5 million storage unit project built
Storage that has been in the works since 2017.
“After it got a slow start, it’s been full steam ahead,” Wallner said.
The city also is prepping for the sale of a property near the Dupor tail Bridge by the city shops that overlook the Yakima River. ●
City of West Richland
More homes going up on west end of townBY KRISTINA LORD
W est Richland continues to grow west.
The city of 17,410 residents has added 5,600 people in the past 12 years and more homes are coming.
In 2021, the city issued 205 permits for single-family homes, more than in the combined three years prior.
There are 4,200 new homes in the pipeline in the planning or site development stage, or under construction as of mid-Sep tember. They’re a combination of single- and multifamily, and
3,000 of them are in the Lewis & Clark Ranch area.
This future development of 8,000 acres of farmland is just north of Ruppert Road, and the growing Heights at Red Moun tain Ranch development off Highway 224/Van Giesen Street.
The Lewis & Clark Ranch land, owned by Frank Tiegs LLC, is generally located south of the Yakima River. The site is south of East McWhorter Lane and west of North Harrington Road. Much of its western bor der is adjacent to the river.
To accommodate this influx of new homes, the city needs to double the capacity of its exist
ing wastewater treatment plant. Developer impact fees will help to pay for the expansion.
Future development is ex pected to occur in phases, with the first phase likely adding 3,000 homes on 750 acres at the southwest corner of the site.
Eric Mendenhall, the city’s community development direc tor, said the city is excited about creating a walkable and livable community there.
“This is a good time to be out in front of planning efforts on it,” he said, saying the develop ment will provide additional housing, parks, jobs and recre ational options for residents.
Homes and streets are still going in at The Heights at Red Mountain Ranch, an Aho Con struction development.
The Watermark develop ment, just off Paradise Way, will add 190 new homes on 10,000-square-foot hillside lots. Construction is likely to begin in 2023.
“They’ll have gorgeous views of the valley,” Mendenhall said.
He said rising interest rates
Though the district has not yet finalized plans to put a bond before voters, it has earmarked prop erty near West Richland’s Libby Middle School off Keene Road and Belmont for the school.
More neigh bors should be moving to the area soon.
The city expected to close a deal on a 1-acre parcel with Dutch Bros. in fall 2022. The cof fee chain wants to build a drivethru coffee stand near Libby. Mendenhall expects it to open in 2023. The long line of cars regu larly queuing up at Libby to pick up or drop off students likely are target customers, he said.
The city decided to carve up a 4-acre parcel, across the street from its municipal services build ing, into four 1-acre lots as there seemed to be more developer interest in the smaller size, Men denhall said.
Sun Pacific Energy recently opened a Firehouse Subs-an chored Sun Market convenience store and gas station at 6255 Keene Road.
may push more people into mul tifamily housing, but he said the need is there.
“We’ll continue to see growth happening,” he said.
Mendenhall is hopeful that if Richland School District voters approve a bond for a West Rich land high school in 2023 more commercial development will come to the Belmont Boulevard
HAPO Community Credit Union has plans to open a branch next door to the Sun Market, at 3100 Belmont Blvd.
Further west on Keene, Co operative Way, a new road to ac commodate Benton REA’s future administrative offices, is under construction just off Keene Road near the new West Richland police station.
Construction is underway on an urgent care-anchored strip mall in front of Gesa Credit Union at Bombing Range Bou levard and Paradise Way. Three
Rivers Family Medicine, a Rich land primary care clinic, plans to open a walk-in urgent care center serving patients in West Richland and points west in 2023.
The $2.7 million Bombing Range Plaza also will be home to Shannon’s Grooming, a dog grooming boutique, and the neighborhood’s first Papa Mur phy’s Take ‘n’ Bake Pizza shop.
JLW Asset Management LLC –Lori and Jeff Wenner of Richland are the principals – paid $1.3 million for the 2 acres between Smitty’s Paradise Gas and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints across the street from the plaza development.
The couple plan to build three buildings. One will be for a drive-thru/walk-in coffee shop, Swigg Coffee, and upscale salon. They’re actively recruiting other tenants.
They expect to begin construc tion in 2023.