192nd Avenue shaping up to become county’s gateway to growth

North-south corridor between east Vancouver, Camas poised for an explosion of development

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 

Development plans

For a list of planned development projects, click here.

Call it the Gateway to east Vancouver or the Entrance to west Camas — either label suits Southeast 192nd Avenue.

The north-south corridor is on a development fast-track, despite the region’s slow-moving economy.

Construction projects worth more than $495 million are poised to sprout on more than 1,122 acres along the 192nd corridor from state Highway 14 to Northeast 18th Street.

Those include nine short-term projects that range from Clark College’s satellite campus to plans for Costco’s second Clark County warehouse store, plus two medical office buildings, housing for families, apartments for seniors, a bank branch, a highly visible retail center and the proposed 150-acre campus of offices for Fisher Investments.

And that’s just the short list, which accounts for about 374 acres.

Add in the longer-term development potential of the former 174-acre Hewlett-Packard site, now owned by SEH Amercia Inc., and the outlook becomes even more positive, with SEH’s pledge of $1 billion of capital investment and 1,000 new jobs.

Southeast 192nd, by all accounts, will play a key role in regional job growth, with financial, retail, high-tech and health care all represented throughout the corridor.

“It’s where Vancouver and Camas collide,” said Roger Qualman, a Vancouver-based executive vice president of NAI Norris Beggs & Simpson commercial real estate firm. “Regardless of the economic downturn, forward-thinking corporations are always looking for sites they can utilize, and they are always planning ahead.” Southeast 192nd Avenue’s interchange with state Highway 14 has transformed access to the county’s largest cluster of high-tech companies and surrounding affluent neighborhoods.

Quarry redevelopment

An additional 952 acres is at play for future development on 192nd Avenue’s huge rock-mining tracts.

The largest, called Section 30, is a 553-acre parcel on the north side of First Street at 192nd. The second largest is a scenic rock quarry that overlooks the Columbia River at the corridor’s connection with state Highway 14. For now, it has been dubbed the Riverview Gateway in city planning papers.

Redeveloping the mega rock quarries could take the next decade or longer, said Eric Holmes, Vancouver’s economic development director.

Until then, Vancouver has established guidelines that target a mix of residential, retail and commercial development to draw new jobs on the northern tract.

The southern tract is also earmarked for job-generating development, with structures that would take advantage of riverfront views. Over time, the project could play out in offices, high-end homes, restaurants and shops overlooking the river.

“The plan is for underutilized land to become a maximum area for economic development,” Holmes said. “I don’t know that you can put a date on it. The plan is that, ultimately, this area would accommodate jobs.”

In the meantime, rock mining and related activities continue on both tracts, as other portions of the corridor blossom with development.

Dynamic location

“(Southeast) 192nd is probably one of the most dynamic corridors in the county,” said Dean Kirkland, principal of Vancouver-based Kirkland Development.

He believes that is why tenants responded with favor to his company’s planned $12 million retail and office development at Southeast 20th Street and 192nd. Called 192nd Avenue Plaza, it also attracted development financing when similar projects were put on hold, Kirkland said.

Potential occupants were most impressed by traffic counts of more than 20,000 vehicle trips a day.

The signed leases helped secure a construction loan to build the 35,000-square-foot project, expected to open in August, said Kirkland, 42 and his partner Tom Files, 43.

The center’s eight tenants include: mortgage company Pinnacle Capital; east-side locations for Applewood Restaurant & Catering and Hula Boy Restaurant; a jewelry store; a tanning and nail salon; a convenience market; an auto licensing office and the first satellite location of Lily Atelier, a downtown Camas boutique.

The shop’s owner, Dawn Stanchfield, said high-volume traffic drew her to the site.

“We’re looking forward to the high visibility, and 192nd is really a connector; a kind of bridge between the Camas community and east Vancouver,” she said.

Camas connection

Camas also foresees an additional west-end 192nd Avenue connection at Southeast 20th Street, said Mayor Paul Dennis. However, the investment of between $1.2 million and $1.6 million to build the half-mile link won’t pencil out until more of the city’s west-side parcels develop.

Dennis said the road, which would cross soggy wetlands and running streams, could be worth the expense if it brings more development that could add jobs and generate sales tax for the city.

“Our land becomes more marketable if you can get the road through,” Dennis said.

For some, the wetlands along 192nd paved the way for more aesthetically pleasing developments that skirt the sensitive areas of Camas and Vancouver’s geographic embrace.

“It’s not all hodge-podgy,” said Jon Girod, a builder and owner of Vancouver-based Quail Homes.

He said his company’s best-selling subdivision rests on the western border of the Southeast 192nd Avenue. And with only 20 vacant lots left in the 69-lot Quail Crossing, “It’s already almost full. As we get the homes built, they’re gone,” Girod said.

And if homeowners like the location, business development will follow and continue to offer job opportunities on Vancouver’s east side, said Holmes. However, Holmes cautioned that the region’s stagnant economy could hold back the growth.

“I suspect all the challenges will be tied back to the state of the economy and (business) access to financing, capital and the drive for new tenants,” he said.