Vancouver gets $200,000 grant to plan for site's cleanup

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

 
photoLower Grand Employment Area. Click to enlarge.

A $200,000 federal grant will pay for a plan to clean up and improve infrastructure in the 173 acres immediately east of Pearson Field and north of state Highway 14.

The city of Vancouver announced Monday it received the money from an Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Area-Wide Planning Grant. According to the EPA, a "brownfield" refers to property where redevelopment may be complicated by pollutants or a potential for pollutants.

Vancouver has identified the "Lower Grand Employment Area" as an area that has suffered from localized flooding due to poor stormwater drainage and has raised environmental concerns because of its history as home to industrial businesses, said Bryan Snodgrass, principal planner for the city.

The streets are also in poor condition, he said.

The area's profile was raised with the addition of the Fred Meyer-anchored Grand Central development, which opened in 2008, but Snodgrass said the grant-funded plan will play a key role in charting the course for future economic development.

He said right-of-way adjustments and street improvements are needed to enhance the marketability of the area. Drainage problems need to be fixed too, he said, and flood zone requirements need to be clearly defined.

The city has retained Maul Foster & Alongi to work on the plan over the next two years, Snodgrass said.

In the city's 2008 subarea plan for the Lower Grand Employment Area, it was described as highly visible and a gateway to the Fort Vancouver National Site.

"However, despite potential for additional development and employment activity, the area has been stagnant for many years. Current property and business owners are concerned about poor drainage, deteriorating streets, utility services, crime, and complications from increasing traffic as the commercial area is developed," according to the plan.

The plan noted that starting in 1942, the land was used for temporary housing for workers in the Kaiser shipyards. After the war, the temporary housing was removed and the area was converted to industrial use.

The city also has received a $400,000 EPA grant to conduct environmental assessments of individual brownfield sites citywide, Snodgrass said. A portion of that grant could be used for a detailed environmental assessment on the Lower Grand Employment Area, he said.