New growth spurt for 192nd Avenue

$50 million retail project aims to take advantage of arrival of Fisher Investments




A once-rural crossroads near the divide between Vancouver and Camas is shaping up to be one of the hottest development corners in all of Clark County.

The east Vancouver junction of Southeast 192nd Avenue and 20th Street is also poised to become a gateway to Camas, one of the driving forces behind nearly $70 million worth of construction planned near the intersection. Smoothie drinks, pizza, an orthodontist’s office and a barber are just a few of the services lined up to lease space in the $50 million, six-building 192nd Avenue Station retail center. The complex is being built on the northeast side of the interchange, which will soon lead to a $30 million Camas office complex under construction for Fisher Investments.

More retail, apartments and hotel construction, worth between $20 million and $25 million, are to be built starting next year on tracts south of 20th Street and 192nd Avenue.

The new retail tenants are focused on attracting 400 Fisher Investments employees who are about to move into the first of four buildings planned for the campus, said Roger Qualman, the Vancouver-based chief operating officer of NAI Norris, Beggs & Simpson commercial real estate firm.

In addition to Fisher Investments, the area is attractive to retailers — despite Clark County’s sluggish retail market — because of its affluent neighborhoods, nearby schools and access to state Highway 14 on the southernmost leg of 192nd.

Qualman said retailers, which generally follow rooftops, are not about to ignore a large concentration of daytime workers who are apt to go out for lunch, take clothes to the dry cleaners or stop for a haircut.

“Fisher employees will be looking for services on their way to and from work,” Qualman said.

The campus and a new street linking 20th Street to Northwest 38th Avenue on the Camas side are expected to generate an additional 20,000 daily vehicle trips past 192nd Avenue Station, according to Dean Kirkland and Tom Files, of Columbia Pacific Leasing and Income Properties, the project’s developers.

The business partners also developed the $12 million, two-building 192nd Avenue Plaza on the southeast side of the interchange.

The new project’s general contractor, K&F General Contracting, will build 192nd Avenue Station in stages, starting with one building at the north end of the site near 15th Street and a second building near 20th Street.

“The bigger building is 86 percent leased and the smaller one is 100 percent full” and expected to open in mid-2012, Files said.

The buildings, a 25,000-square-foot, two-story structure and a 10,000-square-foot, single-level building, are designed to resemble the neighboring retail complex on the south side of 20th. Site plans include generous parking arrangements for nearly 500 cars.

Qualman said Camas-based tech companies, such as WaferTech and Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas, also generate traffic along the corridor. However, manufacturing firms don’t produce many retail and restaurant patrons, he said.

“The big campuses typically have their own cafeteria and services,” Qualman said.

Gateway to Camas

If Camas officials have their way, the smaller city will soon be reaping the benefits of becoming a home base to new retailers. The city expects to start construction next year on a $3.5 million stretch of road to tie the city’s Northwest 38th Avenue to Vancouver’s 20th Street, making the location even more accessible to Camas residents.

That connection will open up more than 50 acres of commercial land for development on the Camas side of the border, said Paul Dennis, executive director of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.

Dennis said Issaquah-based Costco had considered building its store on one of the tracts. Instead, it chose its current site at Southeast First Street and 192nd in Vancouver for a store that opened this year.

“They said the connection was one of the major deciding factors,” said Dennis, who was Camas mayor at the time.

Even with the city’s carefully cultivated cluster of businesses and upscale neighborhoods near its Vancouver border, Camas doesn’t receive a bit of the sales tax generated by big-box stores, boutiques and restaurants along Southeast192nd Avenue, said Scott Higgins, current Camas mayor.

Sales from those stores produce tax revenue for Vancouver, he said.

“The Costco and QFC, all of it goes to Vancouver. There’s nothing we can do about that now,” Higgins said.

Files said tenants in the already finished 192nd Avenue strip center include a convenience grocery store, a drive-through auto licensing business, a coffee shop and clothing boutique. It also houses a mortgage company and east-side restaurant locations of Applewood and Hula Boy Char Broil.

He said most of those tenants were attracted by the center’s location, adding that 192nd Avenue now carries a traffic count of 40,000 vehicles daily.

Other tenants that have signed leases for the north side of 20th in the 192nd Avenue Station include a chiropractor, a sushi restaurant, a martial arts school and a violin shop.