Steel girders swung into place and cement trucks paraded down to the Vancouver waterfront Thursday morning, but Barry Cain wanted to show off the Columbia River.
“This is the most significant natural resource in this whole area,” he said. “Look at it. To walk out over it, to feel it — to get the whole feeling of the river at the same time is amazing.”
Thursday morning kicked off a new phase in the waterfront development, as cement trucks began arriving to pour the concrete foundation of the Grant Street Pier. The pier will jut out 90 feet over the river, held up by cables tied to a 70-foot mast.
When the pier opens next spring, it is sure to be a centerpiece of the waterfront development, Cain said. It will be flanked by a 7.3-acre park that, combined with the pier, represent a $30 million investment by the city of Vancouver.
The waterfront, a $1.5 billion investment led by Cain and his company Gramor Development, based in Tualatin, Ore., will soon turn 32 acres once dominated by the Boise Cascade paper mill into stores, restaurants and residences. Cain told a group of reporters Thursday that demand has been “pent-up” for this waterfront.
“This is going to set the stage for what’s going to happen in downtown Vancouver for the next 20 years. This is going to be the big thing going on in the Portland-Vancouver area,” he said. “There’s just nothing like this in the whole area.”
For now, the pier is mostly scaffolding. Rotschy, a Vancouver construction outfit, has worked since July on the project. Pilings prop up a temporary walkway over the river and a dammed section allows crews to lay rebar up to 16 feet below water level. The pilings will be removed as work progresses.
Larry Kirkland, an internationally known artist, designed the pier. Its nighttime lighting was designed by Charles Stone, a Seattle-based designer, whose previous works include lighting the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates and the “Tribute in Light” dual pillars at the former site of the World Trade Center buildings.
Restaurant foundation laid
Two nearby buildings that will house some of the waterfront’s inaugural restaurants have also made progress. Foundations have been laid for Block 12 and Block 9, on which mixed-use buildings are beginning to take shape.
Restaurants within those buildings include Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar, Ghost Runners Brewery and WildFin American Grill. All three restaurants are expected to open next spring. Cain said more restaurants could be announced in the coming weeks.
The ground-floor restaurants will have patios overlooking the river while Ghost Runners, whose location will be on the second story, will have an observation deck. Brewing equipment for the 10-barrel brewery will likely be hoisted into the building before it is completed, Gramor officials said.
Cain referred to the buildings as “iconic” because they will have a seat right at the Columbia River.
“I mean, when do you get to do that?” he said.
In all, the waterfront development consists of 21 blocks and, according to Gramor, up to 5 million square feet of developable space. Other businesses waiting to move into the waterfront include M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty and Hotel Indigo.