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News / Business / Clark County Business

Big things heading to Lower Grand

New 400,000-square-foot office park, led by the newly announced Home Depot office, could bring thousands of new workers to area

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer
Published: October 15, 2017, 6:07am
6 Photos
Thatcher’s Coffee buzzes with activity on a recent Tuesday morning. It and other stores at Grand Central shopping center will likely benefit from an influx of new workers when a nearby office park is completed.
Thatcher’s Coffee buzzes with activity on a recent Tuesday morning. It and other stores at Grand Central shopping center will likely benefit from an influx of new workers when a nearby office park is completed. Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian Photo Gallery

When Jamie Erdman first saw Grand Central, she wasn’t really sure what to make of it. The brick shopping plaza was near where state Highway 14 and Interstate 5 converge. By car, it was one minute from downtown Vancouver.

Those are big pluses for any coffee shop, recalled Erdman, owner of Thatcher’s Coffee. But something felt off. At the base of Blandford Canyon, most neighbors were industrial companies or empty fields.

“It felt a little isolated,” Erdman said. “But the more I got to know the surrounding area and the commerce and the traffic patterns, I thought it really was a great location.”

She was right. Seven years later, the brick shopping center is loaded with parked cars and people on weekends. Its commercial spaces are rarely vacant. Now, more activity could be on the way.

Local officials and builders are preparing Lower Grand, as the area is called, for an upheaval. In a few years, another 3,000 people could be working there every day at an upcoming office park, including the newly announced Home Depot QuoteCenter offices.

An office on Grove Street

Home Depot QuoteCenter is a software division of the retail chain. It won’t be employing thousands of people by itself, but it will anchor the upcoming 400,000-square-foot office campus. The site, currently part of the Quad Industrial Park, is wedged between Grove Street and Blandford Drive, north of Columbia House Boulevard.

Construction is already underway on QuoteCenter’s 45,000-square-foot office. Excavators, bulldozers and backhoes are stationed at the east side of the property.

QuoteCenter develops software to help professional contractors make bulk orders at stores nationwide. Roughly 200 workers will move into the location by June 2018.

Mike Lee, manager of talent acquisition for the division, said the move will be a step up from the current environs at EastRidge Business Park. Employees are looking forward to the new office’s proximity to Grand Central, the waterfront, and downtown restaurants.

“We’re in a bit of a food desert where we are, so it will be a better lifestyle area for our associates,” he said. “I think businesses that move into the area can expect that they will have a loyal following from our people.”

That could just be the start. Killian Pacific has high hopes for the area.

Doing business as Columbia Grove and Columbia Spruce, the Vancouver developer bought the land for $9.4 million in August, according to Clark County property records. Over several years, it expects to invest $150 million to build a space that will “turn the traditional ‘office park’ concept on its head,” said Vice President of Development Adam Tyler.

The campus will have copious green space and bike trails, he said. Offices on the property will have high ceilings and big windows. It will be a place for yoga and dog-walking, among other things.

After Home Depot QuoteCenter opens, there could be five more phases of construction to round out the property. Mike Bomar, president of the CREDC, said they hope for it to become a space for tech firms and life sciences companies.

Good to be Grand

In an economic impact study, Killian Pacific forecasts that the workers moving there will earn an average salary of $69,000.

For Thatcher’s Coffee, boutique store Willows and other locally owned shops nearby, there is probably a safe bet they will see a rise in sales in coming years.

“This is just additive, with potentially 3,000 new employees coming in, that’s going to be huge for them,” said Chad Eiken, community and economic development director for the city of Vancouver. “There is going to be a long line at Thatcher’s, and the restaurants.”

Grand Central will likely continue to thrive. Commercial real estate agent Mert Meeker, who brokers the storefronts at the shopping center, said there is rarely a vacancy. Today, at least 20 spaces are filled and one is empty.

Still, Meeker points out the Fred Meyer store that anchors the shopping center brings in 25,000 visitors a week.

“It creates tremendous draw and a lot of our tenants that have been there long term do quite well,” he said. “There’s a lot of cross-shopping that goes on among those tenants.”

Erdman, who had not heard of the office park until very recently, said that while any new development isn’t inherently good, she believed local wages being spent at local businesses would be a boon for the area.

“Generally, new developments bringing new jobs and incomes that will stay local is always a benefit to the community and has a positive impact on local businesses,” she said.

As sole owner of Thatcher’s Coffee, she has a unique perspective on the matter. Eight years ago, when she was a manager at Peet’s Coffee in downtown Portland, she was handpicked by Killian Pacific founder George Killian to open a coffee shop at Grand Central.

“He developed that property and knew they wanted a coffee shop there and he knew that would be a draw to other tenants,” she said. “Their whole company, I think, is very visionary and their products have proven successful.”

That would be good news for Eiken and the city of Vancouver. The Lower Grand area has been targeted for years to become a hub for development. A 2008 plan for the area described it as a gateway to Fort Vancouver and to the city.

The Vancouver City Council will vote Monday whether to enter into a development agreement with Killian Pacific, which may include paying for some infrastructure improvements on the land.

Eiken said city staff felt that doing so would go a long way toward turning the Lower Grand area into that hub.

“It may take (Killian Pacific) some time to develop all 22 acres, but once they do some basic infrastructure to get the site ready it’s going to be prime development for office use,” he said.

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Columbian staff writer