Washougal reviews redevelopment plans for former lumber mill site

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter


Updated: September 9, 2013, 11:21 PM


Public meetings

■ Who: City of Washougal.

■ What: Hearing on amended development agreement for the former Hambleton Bros. Lumber Co. site.

■ When: 7 p.m. Sept. 23.

■ Where: City Hall, 1701 C St.

■ Who: Port of Camas-Washougal.

■ What: Open house on recreational facility plan and environmental cleanup.

■ When: 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 24.

■ Where: Port offices, 24 S. A St., Washougal.

Washougal officials are reviewing mixed-use plans for redeveloping a former waterfront lumber mill site as proposed by Vancouver developer Killian Pacific, the Port of Camas-Washougal and the city.

Housing — as many as 200 apartment or condominium units — could play a big part in the project, according to the latest draft of the Parkers Landing Development Agreement. The document filed with the city would approve water for the residential units and traffic capacity for up to 9,190 average daily vehicular trips generated by the complex. The agreement among Washougal, the developer and the port would also add a waterfront trail and a shoreline park with a boat launch.

“It recognizes the uniqueness of the site and attempts to qualify what a good quality development would look like,” said Mitch Kneipp, Washougal’s community development director.

The city council discussed the project Monday and expects to hear public comment at a Sept. 23 hearing.

The public portion — 14 acres — of the roughly 26-acre site is easy to envision. However, other parts of the mixed-use development aren’t as clear.

“Mixed-use could be retail on the bottom with residential above,” said David Ripp, the port’s executive director.

That way, ground-floor businesses could be supported by residents of the multi-level condominiums or apartments or visitors to the site, Ripp said.

In November 2012, the port purchased about half the 26 acres from Killian Pacific, which retained the other half of the former mill parcel. Then the port teamed up with Killian Pacific — a commercial real estate development and investment company — to make over the waterfront property. The port said at the time that the project could include new restaurants, boutique shops and offices surrounding an anchor tenant, along with access to the waterfront, including an extensive trail.

That anchor tenant shouldn’t be any old variety retailer, but a specialty niche, Ripp said. “Like Whole Foods is a specialty, fresh and organic niche,” he said.

Some expect the mixed-use project’s housing — apartment or condominium units — to develop first, given market demand. Commercial projects, such as retail, typically follow housing projects, with manufacturing space bringing up the rear, said Terry Wollam, a broker with Re/Max Equity Group in Vancouver.

“Waterfront views are in high demand,” Wollam said.

Kneipp said residents won’t likely be able to envision the private development until building permits are submitted to the city.

“They still have to come in with a site plan approval to build any building,” he said.

He said the development agreement, if approved, would provide some certainty to the developer, as well as to residents and stakeholders interested in reconnecting Washougal’s downtown area to its waterfront. The project’s extended, 12-foot-wide trail would head toward the waterfront’s Steamboat Landing and connect to the downtown core via the new pedestrian tunnel under state Highway 14.

The port has additional property to the east, which will continue the trail into the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

In 2011, the port announced it secured a $200,000 grant from the Washington Department of Ecology to examine the site’s environmental contamination and to prepare for its eventual redevelopment.

Possible alternatives

Without the development agreement, the property could develop under its designated “highway commercial” zoning. Such uses include sites like the Westlie Ford Dealership, next door to the former Hambleton lumber mill, and the tiny Puffin Cafe on the waterfront.

Others express confidence in Killian Pacific, upscale retail developer of projects such as the Grand Central Fred Meyer complex east of downtown Vancouver and the QFC-anchored retail center at Southeast 192nd Avenue and 34th Street in east Vancouver.

“It makes perfectly good sense to me to add residential to the retail, commercial and recreational uses,” said Roger Daniels, a Washougal real estate broker and historian.

Daniels said he thinks Killian Pacific’s limited liability company, Parkers Landing, was appropriately named after town founder David C. Parker, who in the 1840s led a Missouri family to homestead the site, the first in what is now Western Washington. Parker platted an entire town called Parkersville. It failed to materialize before his death in 1858, but Lewis Van Vleet took over the land, followed Parker’s plans and built what became a bustling pioneer town in the 1870s.

Land documents show Hambleton’s former site was a portion of Parker’s original land claim, said Daniels, who added that he does not represent property holders in the deal. He expects the port’s 350-slip boat marina and existing boat launch to add to the allure of development at the site.

“Then if they have little shops and other attractions and then add the living units, it makes perfectly good sense to me,” he said.

Cami Joner: 360-735-4532 cami.joner@columbian.com.