What's up with that? Road at former airport awaits more redevelopment

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 

The new extension of Northeast Fourth Street through to Southeast First Street (that goes through the old Evergreen Airport) appears to be fully completed — striping, lighting, walkways, signing and landscaping — with some vehicles already working their way around the “Road Closed” barriers. Any idea when this road will be officially open?

— William Bell, Fircrest

No time soon, William. According to Vancouver Public Works spokeswoman Loretta Callahan, the place is largely private property and still in the early stages of development. It might not seem that way since it’s been years since the airfield was sold, but that’s the sluggish economy for you.

That section of roadway remains “under the ownership and control of the developer of the … project,” Callahan said. In effect, it is still private property. The new infrastructure work has been approved and accepted by the city, she said, but the legal wheels that transfer ownership are driven by the developer. That process is under way now, Callahan said, but it will be many more weeks before the improvements become city property.

Even then, those new streets won’t immediately open to the public. They’ll wait for development to ramp up at the site.

“It’s not uncommon for a turn lane that’s built to serve a private development … to remain closed until it’s needed to serve that particular development for traffic, safety and maintenance reasons,” she said. A good example is the nearby Eastgate Plaza-Birtcher Business Center site on Fourth Plain, home of a future Walmart among other stores and buildings. Callahan said a majority of new streets there are still barricaded while the long-stalled site awaits development.

Likewise, the streets, lights and other improvements at the former Evergreen Airfield were “built to serve an active commercial and residential site,” Callahan said. “That development is waiting to occur.”

The city is hearing from residents who both do and do not want the street opened for driving convenience, she added. Neighbors are worried about vandalism and safety. So are the police and fire departments, she said; they’ve told Public Works they’re fine with keeping the site closed for now.

Callahan said there’s no date nor estimate as to when the street will open to the public.

Got a question about your neighborhood? Send it to neighbors@columbian.com.