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Top business stories of 2018: Building, growth still booming

By , Columbian Business Editor
10 Photos
Officials are still discussing the future of Block 10.
Officials are still discussing the future of Block 10. Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files Photo Gallery

Vancouver waterfront development was an obvious 2018 entry for the Top 10 stories covered by The Columbian in Clark County. Other business-related stories made that Top 10 list including rejection of the Port of Vancouver oil terminal, Camas mill layoffs, and the affordable housing crisis and homelessness.

But there was plenty of other Clark County business news in 2018. So in the spirit of end-of-the-year lists, here’s a Top 10 list of additional Clark County business stories in 2018. Enjoy:

1. nLIGHT issues IPO

Shortly after its arrival in Vancouver from Seattle in 2002, nLIGHT observers wondered, “When are they going public?”

The laser manufacturer answered that question April 26, the first day it began trading on Nasdaq as LASR. It opened at $16 per share and by market close it had climbed to $26.95, a one-day gain of 68 percent.

“I think that’s something everybody in the region should take great pride in,” founder and CEO Scott Keeney said after the first day of trading. “It’s certainly not just me or our team. It’s the community. We should all celebrate in this success.”

By June, the price climbed to about $40. However, with ongoing tariff-induced uncertainty, share prices have dipped lately to where they started. On Wednesday, LASR closed at $17.57.

Nearly half of nLIGHT’s revenue came from China last year, but sales there grew just 15 percent in the third quarter this year, less than half the rate of overall growth.

During a conference call with analysts to discuss third quarter results, Keeney said he anticipated that the company would be able to weather the impact of tariffs due to its strong manufacturing capacity at its Vancouver facility. (It has another in Shanghai.) He also noted that sales of fiber lasers in China make less than a quarter of the company’s revenue, and the company is seeing strong growth in other markets as well.

2. Port of Vancouver announces Terminal 1 plans

The Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 1 would be home to a public market rivaling that of Seattle’s Pike Place Market under a plan introduced in September.

While costs of developing the site are unknown, the port unveiled conceptual drawings that reimagine the 10-acre site with a large, airy market building that pays homage to the location’s history as the port’s original warehouse, built atop a new pier.

As envisioned by architects from Seattle-based Graham Baba, the proposed public market would be wrapped in corrugated metal, with large glass windows and garage doors, where farmers and food producers could sell directly to customers year-round.

The port’s 2019 budget sets aside $13.4 million for capital projects, including nearly $2.5 million for waterfront development at Terminal 1.

3. Block 10 plan announced

An 11-story building with a 15,000- to 30,000-square-foot grocery store on the ground floor would be built on a prime piece of downtown Vancouver real estate known as Block 10 under a plan the developer announced in September.

Gramor Development President Barry Cain told the Vancouver City Council he expected a grocery tenant to be signed to a lease by May 2019. Also, the city and Gramor are expected to reach a development agreement in 2019. Construction would begin in spring 2020 with completion targeted for October 2021.

The building would likely include three levels of above-ground parking. The proposal followed another Gramor made two years ago for a six- or seven-story tower with underground parking on the site bounded by Columbia, Ninth, Washington and Eighth streets.

The 41,681-square-foot Block 10 was purchased by the city in the early 1990s with an eye toward future redevelopment. The site holds the distinction of being the last of the former downtown “brewery blocks” to enter development. The site is across the street from the Vancouvercenter, which is built on the former site of the Lucky Lager brewery.

4. PeaceHealth buys Zoom+Care

Vancouver-based PeaceHealth announced in late December that it acquired Portland-based Zoom+Care, a move PeaceHealth officials said would enable the nonprofit to deliver care in an innovative way.

“We are looking to be as innovative as possible, and meet the market where the market is at, and look at innovation as it’s applied to creating affordable access for our community to care in ways that are meaningful to touch those communities in the ways they want to touch health care,” said Mike Dwyer, PeaceHealth’s executive vice president.

Details of the sale were not disclosed. The acquisition is expected to close Monday.

Zoom+Care provides on-demand retail and digital care through the internet and neighborhood clinics. Zoom has 37 clinics in Oregon and Washington. There are two clinics in Vancouver and about 25 in Portland. The other locations are in Salem, Ore., and the Seattle area.

It competes in a space that includes Providence Express Care at Walgreens and four Vancouver Clinic urgent care locations.

5. Riverfront development planned on east side of Interstate 5 Bridge

Most riverfront development was focused in 2018 on the downriver side of the Interstate 5 Bridge.

But a plan announced in mid-December broke the narrative, as a developer announced a plan to raze the buildings that house Joe’s Crab Shack and Who Song & Larry’s and build in their place a two-building complex with 300,000 square feet of residential space and 50,000 square feet of retail.

The project on the 3.5-acre site would include office, hotel and restaurant space in addition to the residential component. The buildings will include parking.

There is no timeline for when the restaurants will close. And the project does not have a ground-breaking date.

“It will be the perfect continuation of the city’s newly revitalized waterfront, and will bring exciting new life to the other side of the Interstate Bridge,” said Dean Kirkland, chairman of Kirkland Development. Kirkland is developing the Hotel Indigo and Kirkland Tower at The Waterfront Vancouver, on the west side of the Interstate 5 Bridge.

6. Hotel development boomlet in east Vancouver

Considerable attention has been paid to one hotel under construction on the Vancouver waterfront, another that is planned and still another that could be built in downtown Vancouver.

Meanwhile, east Vancouver was poised to added 304 hotel rooms in projects that opened in 2018 or will open early next year.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites at 1805 S.E. 192nd Ave., with 82 rooms, opened in the fourth quarter. Best Western Premier at 1500 S.E. 167th Ave., with 132 rooms, is expected to open in the first quarter of next year. Residence Inn Portland Vancouver at 411 S.E. 123rd Ave., with 90 rooms, is expected to open in the first quarter of next year.

7. City-owned Heights District development envision

Three visions of a developed Heights District were presented in October for the 12-acre property that the city of Vancouver purchased at auction in June 2017 for $5 million.

Three concepts — called Promenade, Loop and Grand Park — include a mix of uses and operate using the same assumptions about the number of residential units (1,800) and available commercial space. The concepts also plan for connections throughout the site, formerly known as Tower Mall.

The planning phase of The Heights project is expected to be completed next fall.

8. Second phase envisioned at Convene

Developer Killian Pacific is deep into planning for the second stage of the project east of Grand Central.

Construction is expected to start in the spring on two more buildings at Convene, the Vancouver business park where the Home Depot QuoteCenter opened this summer. Home Depot QuoteCenter, a software service for the home improvement company, houses about 200 employees in the first building on the property.

Under plans submitted to the city, a 62,000-square-foot, three-story office building would be built on the site as well as a 39,000-square-foot, two-story building with about a third of the space set aside on the ground floor for retail and restaurant use. Both structures would be part of a second phase covering about 17 acres. The proposed development also would include a 48,000-square-foot, three-story office building, an 11,000-square-foot, one-story building for a possible day care center as well as a 4,800-square-foot, one-story covered play area. Nearly 580 parking spaces would surround the structures.

9. ilani continues to grow

ilani Casino Resort opened a 30,000-square-foot event center in April to host concerts, trade shows, corporate meetings and other high-traffic events.

The space features a 22,000-square-foot banquet hall that can seat 800 people at tables or serve a standing audience of 2,500. It can be partitioned for other uses, and there are separate conference rooms as well. By contrast, the Heritage Ballroom at the Hilton Vancouver Washington is 14,074 square feet. The casino, which opened in April 2017, is already the largest gaming complex near the Vancouver-Portland metropolitan area.

In September, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe announced plans for a gas station and convenience store on a site adjacent to ilani, just off Interstate 5 at Exit 16. Slated for completion in late spring 2019, the new facility will feature at 18-24 gas pumps as well as a 5,500-square-foot convenience store 22 parking spaces.

10. Golden Corral opens

A much-anticipated Golden Corral opened in February at 11801 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd., the first Vancouver-Portland metropolitan area location for the North Carolina-based chain.

The 11,000-square-foot restaurant is expected to become the anchor tenant of a strip mall at the southeastern corner of the intersection of Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard and state highway 500.

Columbian Business Editor

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