Port of C-W seeks waterfront input

Workshop also looks at ways to redevelop former Hambleton sawmill site

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter




No big-box stores.


Make it a destination, not a forgettable dot on a map.

And weave it into the existing downtowns, streetscapes and trails of Washougal and Camas.

Those were just some of the desires east Clark County residents expressed during a recent public workshop held by the Port of Camas-Washougal to discuss the future of about 40 acres of waterfront property in Washougal, including how to redevelop the 25-acre former Hambleton Lumber Co. mill.

“It could help or it could draw away” from the commercial districts of Camas and Washougal, Karen Hall, owner of the historic Camas Hotel, said of the port’s effort to transform the site.

While the port is considering its options, including purchasing part of the Hambleton parcel, no decisions have been made.

The challenge, said Hall, also a member of the Downtown Camas Association, is to design a project that complements the communities of both Camas and Washougal.

Planning continues

Hall was among more than 30 people who turned out for last Wednesday’s informal, free-flowing discussion inside the Camas-Washougal Municipal Court Building, where coffee and cookies were served.

The workshop was the port’s latest step in planning to revitalize a key waterfront area. More meetings are in the offing, and the port has created a page on its website to regularly update the public on the planning process.

More than half of the waterfront planning area is made up of the Hambleton parcel, owned by Hambleton Bros. Lumber Co. It extends east of the port’s boating marina and connects to port-owned property at Sixth Street in Washougal.

The sawmill closed in summer 2010. More than 40 workers lost their jobs with the shutdown.

The port wants to rejuvenate the waterfront area, including the Hambleton property — which is zoned for commercial use — by cleaning up environmental contamination, potentially constructing a mix of commercial and residential buildings, creating jobs, and maintaining and expanding public access to the waterfront.

Port explores options

To meet its goals for the site, the port may acquire a portion of the Hambleton property. The port also is exploring financial and operational arrangements, including teaming up with a developer to transform the property.

Vancouver-based commercial developer Killian Pacific has expressed interest in buying the parcel formerly occupied by the Hambleton Lumber Co. sawmill. David Ripp, executive director of the Port of Camas-Washougal, said Killian Pacific remains interested. However, no agreements have been made, he said.

The port is paying for the current planning effort with a $200,000 grant from the state Department of Ecology. Consulting firm Maul, Foster and Alongi is leading the public planning process.

‘Don’t mess it up’

Jim Darling, a vice president of Maul, Foster and Alongi, and architect David Christensen, who’s working with Darling’s firm on the project, led Wednesday’s discussion of the waterfront site’s future.

They were joined by others involved in the planning effort, including an environmental scientist, a city planner and Paul Dennis, former mayor of Camas who now heads the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.

Although the Hambleton property is contaminated by fuel, fuel oil and hydraulic fluids, the pollution is not widespread, according to preliminary investigations.

And the market is ripe for new development, Dennis said, noting he’s talked to national retailers who are interested in Western Washington and in east Clark County.

“It’s waterfront property,” Dennis added. “You can’t make that anywhere.”

Darling, the vice president of Maul, Foster and Alongi, said reshaping the Washougal waterfront site amounts to a balancing act that must account for state regulators’ interest in cleaning up pollution, the market’s influence in what gets built there and the community’s concerns over how it all plays out.

Darling said he thinks he’s got a handle on what those who attended the workshop are saying: “This is a unique opportunity, don’t mess it up.”

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com.