Call it a trendsetting "edge city" or good old-fashioned urban sprawl. Either way, something new has appeared on the Clark County landscape near Vancouver's border with Camas.
A key Vancouver intersection at Southeast 192nd Avenue and 20th Street is taking on the appearance of a new city center, with nearly $170 million of development in the works. The area is poised to get new projects this year that include retail businesses, multifamily housing, offices and even a hotel as a big construction boom plays out near the once-rural crossing.
The intersection's appeal is obvious. The surrounding area is growing with well-paying businesses, an affluent population and a new roadway connection that ramps up traffic and visibility.
The crossing is a big commercial draw to growing corporate hubs such as Fisher Investments in Camas and the east Vancouver campus of health care nonprofit PeaceHealth, as well as a future home for Integra on part of the former Hewlett-Packard campus. And the area's commercial and residential building growth is poised to heat up even more with the expected opening this month of an east-west roadway connecting Camas to Vancouver.
The tree-lined 192nd Avenue corridor was fairly quiet as recently as 2009, when Camas business partners Dean Kirkland and Tom Files of K&F Ventures & Holdings launched their master-planned project. The first and smallest retail project, 192nd Avenue Plaza on the southeast corner of 192nd and 20th, opened in 2010 with a slate of retail tenants.
Kirkland and Files, who control land on three sides of the 192nd Avenue-20th Street intersection, then started on 192nd Avenue Station on the intersection's northeast corner. So far, two of six buildings on the six-acre site are completed. They've also built Plaza South, another retail center. Now, they're seeing demand for space in those buildings and planned new buildings.
The area's business growth has made it easier to draw financing and tenants for each successive project, Kirkland said.
"The days of hanging a sign and waiting for tenants are over," he said. "Now, we're enjoying the fruits of our labor."
More projects coming
Now, Kirkland and Files have several other projects on the way.
They plan to build two apartment complexes — one with 104 units on the crossing's southeast quadrant and an 80-unit project on the southwest quadrant. The men expect to start construction this fall on a four-story extended-stay Candlewood Hotel with 85 rooms on the southwest side of 192nd and 20th.
Plans are also in the works to bring 85,000 square feet of office space on the market that could draw tenants from health care providers to insurance carriers.
Kirkland and Files said they see endless opportunities for tenants to fill any new spaces.
"We would explore opportunities with established, well-run food services, sit-down dining and an organic, boutique-type grocery store ," Files said.
Office space users could include private medical practices, professional firms and office support services to serve the area's growing companies. The area's major employers could spur other business development as more entrepreneurs see dollar signs in the area, according to Paul Dennis, president and CEO of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.
Files and Kirkland view the connection between 20th Street in Vancouver side and 38th in Camas as one of the keys to the retail project's success. Camas has taken the lead in developing the $4.8 million road extension, building about two-thirds of a mile of roadway to connect the two roads. The area is flanked by property zoned for commercial development.
Camas officials say they hope the connection draws employers, but also new retailers that will add sales tax revenue to city coffers.
"That opens up about 140 acres all of a sudden," said Dennis. "The market's pretty hot right now."
Businesses relocating to the area include "everything from storage to R and D (research and development) to office, boutique retail and lodging. You name it, there's an interest out there," Dennis said.
Kirkland and Files also are working on plans near the intersection to bring between 400 and 500 single-family home lots online to serve growing businesses in the area.
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt said he, too, is pleased by the growth on the easternmost edge of his city's border.
"I think it (the 192nd Avenue corridor) is a great asset to add to the city's portfolio," he said.
New commuter route
Even with the construction boom near the newly connected roadway, Camas officials say traffic congestion shouldn't be a problem for carrying Camas residents to Vancouver's border for work and shopping.
Once the new roadway opens, it is expected to draw an average of 40,000 daily trips, as commuters opt for the new route instead of Pacific Rim Boulevard, Kirkland said.
"That's where the main residential traffic will come off Prune Hill," he said.
The new road also will serve as an entrance to Fisher Investments' campus, where preliminary site work has started on its second, five-story office building. When the building is finished, founder Ken Fisher has said the Camas component of his California-based investment firm will have the capacity to house about 700 employees, up from about 445 people who now report to the site.
"We think our timing couldn't have been better," Kirkland said.
He said he does not plan to sell sites in the development, but instead will focus on owning and leasing the projects, all designed in a "classic Northwest" architectural style, with modern lines and exterior glass, exposed wood and textured stone.
"We're working with our design team to maintain a certain, classic look," Kirkland said. "We want to keep our theme."
Projects at Southeast 192nd Avenue and 20th Street
A 104-unit, four-story, midrise apartment complex, featuring two- and three-bedroom apartments to be built on the eastern border of Southeast 192nd Avenue, south of 20th Street.
Parcel size: More than 3 acres.
Timeline: Groundbreaking in August, with a mid-2014 completion.
Cost: $22 million.
192nd Avenue Plaza South
A mix of 22,000-square-feet of medical offices that will house health-care provider tenants this fall.
Timeline: Construction and tenant build-out nearing completion.
Project cost: $8 million.
192nd Avenue Plaza
A mixed-use retail and office development that includes Applewood restaurant, a convenience store and an auto-licensing business on the southeast corner of Southeast 192nd and 20th.
Parcel size: 1.5 acres.
Timeline: Opened in 2010.
Cost: $13 million.
192nd Avenue Station
A retail strip-center development fronting Southeast 192nd Avenue from Southeast 15th Street south to 20th Street.
Parcel size: Six-plus acres.
Timeline: Project now has 35,000 square with 85,000 square feet of space to built in four buildings that will serve health care and office tenants.
Cost: Estimated $50 million.
192nd Plaza West
A small retail complex to be built as a companion to the Candlewood on the southwest corner of Southeast 192nd Avenue and 20th Street.
Project size: 10,000 square feet.
Timeline: Construction to coincide with Candlewood project.
Cost: $4.5 million.
A four-story, 85-room extended-stay hotel to be built adjacent to 192nd Plaza West.
Project size: 45,000 square feet.
Timeline: Construction starting in late 2013 for a 2014 completion.
Cost: $12.5 million.
192nd Avenue Station Lofts
An apartment complex to be built south of the hotel on the west side of Southeast 192nd Avenue, with a fueling station and car wash.
Project size: 80 units.
Timeline: Construction starting in 2014 for a 2015 completion.
Cost: Estimated $30 million.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained an error, which has been corrected. Paul Dennis, president and CEO of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, is the former Mayor of Camas.