Inslee praises Vancouver waterfront project

Governor tours site, says it’s great example of public-private partnership

By Amy Fischer, Columbian City Government Reporter and Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer

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Gov. Jay Inslee visited Vancouver’s future downtown waterfront park on Wednesday, calling it a center of economic expansion that will benefit the entire state.

Not long ago, the 7.3-acre site was just mud and rubble. Bulldozers and backhoes have now scoured out the old foundations and rebar from the park site’s past industrial uses, which included the Boise Cascade paper mill. But don’t lace up your sneakers yet — the park won’t be finished until the end of next year.

The governor toured the site with a host of officials, from Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, to Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and project developer Barry Cain.

Inslee praised the project as a great example of a private-public partnership. He said it will “put this community on the map.”

In 2015, the state Legislature approved nearly $4 million to help make the park a reality.

“It’s really neat to see the investment we made come to fruition,” Cleveland said.

The park

The riverfront trail, which will be covered in concrete and lined with pavers, runs from the east and west sides of the park boundary. It will intersect with the Grant Street Pier and extend the 5-mile Renaissance Trail by a half-mile. Because the area is an active construction zone, the public “shouldn’t be going in there except on official tours,” said Parks and Recreation Director Julie Hannon.

Funding for the regional trail segment comes from a federal transportation grant.

Along the trail will be a sandy play area with large stone salmon and a ship-themed rope rigging for climbing. A water feature will be built later, once enough private funding is raised. At the park’s west end will be a floating fishing dock, which will be wheelchair-accessible.

Currently out for bid is the Grant Street Pier project, which has an engineer’s estimate of $7.5 million to $8.5 million. The city will open the bids June 2 and award the project June 13. Suspended by cables, the futuristic, triangular pier was designed by internationally acclaimed artist Larry Kirkland.

In mid-June, the city will put the remainder of the park’s construction out for bid. Because the park plans aren’t finished yet, the city doesn’t have an update for the estimated cost, Hannon said, adding that previous reports of the park costing $17 million were inaccurate.

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held for the pier and the park in late June or early July, she said.

“We’re excited about the progress,” Hannon said.

In addition to the park, construction on five buildings — two restaurant buildings, two apartment buildings and one office building — is slated to begin this summer by Gramor Development of Tualatin, Ore.

Two tenants have been secured for Gramor’s 21-block development, called The Waterfront Vancouver. Overlooking the pier, Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar, a Spokane-based eatery, will open up to the park and a promenade, with outdoor seating providing a vista of the Columbia River. M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, a foundation that awards millions of dollars in grants annually, plans to move its Vancouver headquarters from 703 Broadway to the top two floors of a seven-story building at 305 Columbia Way.

The city is still seeking sponsors for the park’s water feature, fishing pier, benches and tables. Interested parties should call Hannon at 360-487-8309.