Washougal waterfront plans progress

Development of former sawmill site likely still years away

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Retail developer Killian Pacific on Friday inched closer to the reality of developing a waterfront project on the former Hambleton sawmill site in Washougal.

Killian Pacific has submitted an application for a development agreement with Washougal, meant to keep the site zoned as commercial highway and to maintain current development regulations, said David Ripp, executive director of the Port of Camas-Washougal. The port also submitted a similar application for developing 14 acres immediately east of the Hambleton Bros. Lumber Co. property.

The applications will be considered by Washougal’s seven-member city council on March 19. Approval would hold the development to Washington’s current shoreline management plan if any construction were within 200 feet of the edge of the Columbia River.

But it could take years before actual development plans take shape, and even longer before buildings go vertical, said Adam Tyler, design and development manager for Vancouver-based Killian Pacific.

“At this time, we don’t really have any specific plans or commitments,” he said.

Killian Pacific has submitted a written offer to buy the 25-acre property from the Hambleton company pending a period of evaluation. But Tyler said there is still work to be done before his company would formalize its purchase of the former industrial site.

“There are some significant obstacles, such as resolving some of the cleanup of the property,” he said.

The Port of Camas-Washougal has already taken the lead in getting the work started by securing a grant to investigate the site’s cleanup issues and gather input from the community to envision the site’s redevelopment. Port officials held a public meeting in October to gather ideas. A second meeting will take place in March, said Ripp.

Ripp said port officials want to kick-start redevelopment of the Hambleton property and the adjacent port-owned site.

Both are situated just off state Highway 14 at the Second Avenue exit, where construction crews are nearly finished building a new freeway roundabout as part of a project to widen the highway.

The port secured the grant to look into cleanup at the Hambleton site because private developers probably wouldn’t have taken that on, Ripp said.

“We know it’s not as contaminated as we thought it was,” he said. “We know it can be cleaned up.”

Tyler added that site development would have to make economic sense at a time of economic uncertainty, which has been exacerbated by the European debt crisis.

The climate and tightened business-lending standards continues to hamper retail growth, according to some local developers.

“In general, there are challenges to overcome with this or any new development,” Tyler said. “It’s still a difficult market.

Killian Pacific is well-known for developing large-scale commercial projects in Clark County, such as the $21 million West Coast Bank building in downtown Vancouver, the $40 million Fred Meyer-anchored Grand Central retail complex and the $40 million Winco-anchored Bowyer’s Marketplace in the Brush Prairie area.