The city will gauge interest in Block 10, the last completely empty block in the downtown redevelopment area.
The Vancouver City Council gave the go-ahead Monday to publish a "request for interest," a way of informing the private sector that the city is ready to hear ideas for what it considers a prime piece of real estate.
Situated on the northeast corner of Columbia and Eighth streets, the one-acre gravel lot was gussied up this year with flags, flower boxes and some grass and named "Heritage Square." While the city appreciated the efforts of Vancouver's Downtown Association, the lot was never intended to be a city park, said Matt Ransom, the city's policy manager.
A May study by the Leland Group concluded the market for office space in downtown remains weak and the city's best bet may be multifamily housing, such as four floors of housing above parking or retail space.
Ransom stressed to the council that by putting out a request for interest, the city controls the process. If a developer makes an attractive proposal, the city can put out a more detailed "request for qualifications" to vet the developer and discuss potential incentives.
Even if a developer expresses interest, the process won't move quickly. Any decision to sell the property, which the city bought in the mid 1990s, would be subject to a public hearing and vote by the city council, Ransom said. As with any real estate action, the city would have the property assessed before agreeing on a sale price.
Asking developers to submit proposals makes a lot of sense, said Councilor Jack Burkman, and will give the city a good idea of what the market supports.
Block 10, once owned by Lucky Lager, sits near Esther Short Park, the centerpiece of the city's downtown redevelopment efforts.
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt added that, while the May study concluded the market for office space remains weak, the market could shift dramatically over the next six months.
Councilor Larry Smith called Block 10 a "very valuable piece of property," an observation echoed by Councilor Jeanne Stewart.
"This is a beautiful piece of property," Stewart said. "This is premium."
Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.