In Our View: Downtown Appeal Grows

More residential units, walkable plan, will strengthen area's drawing power

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Even in the modern, high-stakes world of downtown redevelopment, sometimes what goes around, comes around. History has a way of repeating itself.

We'll try to prove that point later in this editorial that addresses the growth of residential housing in downtown Vancouver.Recently that progress took a significant step forward with the start of construction at the site of Prestige Plaza, a $16 million, four-story apartment complex on Mill Plain Boulevard just west of the freeway. Part of this property is the former site of the iconic Burgerville walk-up restaurant, which for almost half a century stood proudly as the second in what became the popular chain of hamburger restaurants. Lots of folks, especially downtown workers and residents, still miss that old Burgerville.

But Prestige Plaza furthers a plan to make downtown Vancouver a more vibrant, walkable and economically viable area. That goal can never be reached without making downtown important for 24 hours a day. In other words, permanent residents are vital in the equation.

This emphasis on residential development has been seen on three sides of Esther Short Park. It's also in evidence at several other locations around town, such as Lewis & Clark Plaza, a 46-unit building at Sixth Street and Broadway that has a waiting list of occupants. At the opposite, northwest corner of downtown -- Mill Plain and Esther -- the new $14.7 million Vista Court has 76 units for senior citizens. And, in the southwest corner of downtown, the sprawling waterfront redevelopment project includes plans for up to 3,000 residential units.

Thus, Prestige Plaza in the northeast corner of downtown will enhance the balance of residential development. In addition to 92 apartments of various sizes, this project by developer Elie Kassab also will include retail spaces on the ground floor.

Here's part of what makes this project so appealing to future residents: Two blocks to the east is Interstate 5, offering easy access. Two blocks and four blocks to the west are proposed routes for light rail. Within 20 blocks of Prestige Plaza are dozens of workplaces, some of them large, such as Clark County's Public Service Center, Vancouver City Hall, the main local library and Clark College.

All of which impresses Michele Reeves, a Portland-based consultant and expert on downtown revitalization. In a Thursday Columbian story, Reeves described the wide variety of residents who will be drawn to Prestige Plaza: "Places for entry-level Gen Xers and places for dual income baby boomers are really important," she said. Prestige Plaza "is a walkable site. The proximity to major employers means the place will be full all the time."

More downtown residents means more demand for such amenities as a full-service grocery store. And here's where the goes-around, comes-around theory comes into play. Reeves said, in describing a survey about potential downtown stakeholders, "A lot of people did mention Burgerville." And Burgerville officials have said they're interested in returning downtown.

You know what that means: The shared grief among Burgerville buffs could be brief.