Port of Vancouver pursuing purchase of crucial parcel

It would pave way for development of another property

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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It's no secret the Port of Vancouver wants to move westward, expanding, installing more rail and inviting additional employers to set up shop.

Over the next several months, the port hopes to implement a key piece of that plan by finalizing the purchase of 94 acres of heavy-industrial land sandwiched between two other port-owned parcels — Terminal 5 and Columbia Gateway.

To that end, the port — the third-largest port in Washington — has signed a letter of intent with Moorage 5 Properties and Hickey Family Company to buy the 94-acre parcel, which surrounds the port's 40-acre Terminal 5 West. If the deal goes through, the port would combine the 94-acre property with Terminal 5 West for a total of 134 acres.

The development potential doesn't end there, though.

If the port gets hold of the 94 acres, it would have an open path to extend its rail network to its Columbia Gateway parcel — roughly 534 acres on the port's northwestern boundary long targeted for industrial and marine-related development.

Port of Vancouver Commission President Jerry Oliver said Monday the deal "gives us a clear shot" at developing the Gateway property. "The thought has always been that we want to run rail ultimately out to Gateway, the area we call Parcel 3," he said.

Oliver said Gateway, a waterfront property, has room for at least three more vessel berths. "

You can envision probably another loop track on that property," he added.

The port's pursuit of the 94-acre site comes as it advances several ventures aimed at creating jobs and speeding freight. They include the $275 million West Vancouver Freight Access project — an expansion of the port's rail facilities — and the installation of infrastructure at a portion of the port's Centennial Industrial Park, intended to attract up to 500 jobs.

Development of the Gateway acreage "may, in fact, be after any tenure of mine," said Oliver, who is seeking a second six-year term as a port commissioner. "But it's just laying the groundwork" he said of the port's move to acquire the 94-acre property.

A section of the 94 acres are wetlands, according to Katie Odem, a spokeswoman for the port. The amount of acreage left over for development will be determined after the site's wetlands are outlined and engineering studies are conducted, Odem said.

The letter of intent, which the port signed on April 18, gives all of the parties involved in property negotiations until about mid-June to spell out a purchase price, and terms and conditions for the sale of the 94 acres.

The port's three elected commissioners will have the final say over any deal. They're expected to vote on a final agreement sometime in July.

The port may use its operating revenues to purchase the 94 acres or tap a $50 million line of credit it recently secured from KeyBank for public works and other projects, or use a combination of both options, Odem said.

The three parcels that make up the 94 acres the port wants to buy were recently assessed, for tax purposes, at an estimated total of $3.2 million, according to Clark County public records.

Two tenants, Tidewater Barge Lines and HME, currently lease property on the 94-acre site, according to the port. Tidewater Barge Lines is leasing from Hickey Family Company and HME is leasing from Moorage 5 Properties, Inc.

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