Plan to develop part of quarry progresses

Site work could begin as soon as the end of this year

By Justin Runquist, Columbian Small Cities Reporter

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Last summer, a Portland developer submitted preliminary plans to refurbish an 84-acre section of a quarry on the southeast edge of Vancouver into a blossoming commercial-residential hub, paving the way for a new and inviting entryway to the city.

The development would bring a batch of new housing, offices, retail and a hotel to 4601 S.E. 192nd Ave., just off state Highway 14. And it would mark a major ramping down of rock excavation after several years of loud and dusty aggregate rock mining have defined the landscape along the slopes of the quarry beneath a sprawling row of houses.

But the project still has a long way to go before the site — known to the city as Riverview Gateway — will see any development, said Greg Turner, the city’s land-use planning manager. After all, the property owner has yet to even submit an application for the site, Turner said.

The entire quarry, including the 84-acre section, is actually 186 acres. Most of that land is owned by Pacific Rock Products, a subsidiary of Cemex, a cement and concrete building company.

Weston Investment Co., a major housing and commercial developer based in Portland, owns the 84-acre Riverview Gateway and leases the land out to Cemex for ongoing excavation work by its subsidiary, Pacific Rock Products. Weston purchased that section of the quarry from Washington State Department of Transportation in 2006 for $17.6 million. Even after the proposed development takes off, mining is still slated to continue next door at Pacific Rock Products’ quarry.

The Riverview Gateway site, which straddles 192nd Ave. on either side of Brady Road, has 51.5 acres of developable land; the rest is considered below grade after years of the land being torn apart. Weston plans to build out about 45 percent of the developable land with single-family and high-density housing while using another quarter for retail.

About 14 percent of the space could be home to new offices, and about 8 percent would be converted into parks and open space. With the continuing rise of tech-sector jobs on the east side of Vancouver and in Camas, the developers see the site as a competitive location for a new hotel.

Nine years ago, Weston expected mining at the property to last only about five years, but the work continued longer than anticipated as the demand for aggregate rock dried up during the Great Recession. Last summer, Ed Freeman, Weston’s point man on the development project, told The Columbian that mining should wrap up on the site this spring. Freeman declined to respond to several requests for an update on the project this month.

Weston’s pre-application was submitted to the city by planning consulting firm Otak Inc. of Vancouver. Don Hanson, Otak’s director of planning, architecture and design, said he believes Cemex is still on schedule to finish working in the quarry this spring.

“They’re advancing. Obviously, the development market has picked up,” Hanson said. “We’re trying to stay in sync, so when the rock excavation’s done, we’re able to start.”

In the meantime, the final stages of preparing an application will be held up, but not just by the mining. The developers still need to map out a number of key utilities.

“We’re looking at how to best serve the site with off-site utilities with sewer service and water,” Hanson said. “We’ve got a concept plan, but we need to refine it before we turn it in to the city.”

The developers are on schedule to begin going through a master plan approval process this summer, Hanson said. The process normally takes several months, but Hanson anticipates site development could begin as soon as the end of this year.