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March 21, 2023

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HP planning move to former mine site in Vancouver

Company looks to scale up on 68-acre industrial area

By , Columbian staff writer

HP Inc., a printer and PC company with a corporate campus in east Vancouver, is in negotiations to purchase 68 acres of industrial land in an area key to future development in the city.

The city of Vancouver announced Wednesday afternoon that HP was planning to move out of its current leased facilities at the Columbia Tech Center and build a new location from scratch at what was once the English Pit gravel mine.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Chad Eiken, the city’s community and economic development director. “They’re looking to sort of control their destiny. They can do that, with room to grow.”

The first phase of the move would take up about 28 acres and involve initial development of two office buildings with 330,000 square feet of space. Subsequent phases would see the company’s campus grow to encompass an estimated 1.5 million square feet, including offices, research and development and manufacturing.

HP has been in negotiations with the city for about a year, Eiken added. The company currently employs around 1,100 people in Vancouver — 700 badge-carrying employees, and another 400 full-time contractors.

Specifics of the sale, including the land’s price, were worked out between the company and the English family, which still owns the property, Eiken said.

“We are fortunate that HP, which has had a significant presence in Vancouver for almost 40 years, wants to stay and grow right here in our community,” said Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle in a press release.

The development agreement between the city and the company will be the subject of a workshop before the Vancouver City Council on Dec. 9. A follow-up public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 16, where residents can provide feedback.

The company’s move to the area is significant because it marks the first step in developing Section 30, an area the city has been gunning to fill with offices and light-industrial uses for more than a decade. Vancouver adopted a subarea plan for the entire 553-acre site back in 2009, seeking to take advantage of untapped development potential.

Eventually, city leaders hope, Section 30 will mirror the Columbia Tech Center as another major job-dense, mixed-use hub. The tech center is now the single largest taxpayer in the city, but it was essentially built from scratch in the 1990s on what was once 480 acres of gravel pit.

Infrastructure needed

Today, Section 30 remains largely untouched. Previous mining operations have left the land with different elevations, further complicating any development.

“The parcel that they are purchasing, it will involve some fill but it’s really much closer to being construction-ready than some of the other mines out there,” Eiken said. “It will take some time to get the infrastructure in place. That’s one of the reasons why Section 30 hasn’t developed sooner — there’s really no street network, there’s no water, sewer, (or) storm infrastructure.”

In order to fulfill city leaders’ vision, Section 30 requires a major financial investment. Southeast First Street, originally built as a rural two-lane road, needs around $10 million in upgrades in order to become an arterial that can support development on such a grand scale. Vancouver plans to reapply for a federal grant program to cover the expense in the upcoming year.

The HP project alone also necessitates a quarter-mile extension of Southeast 184th Avenue, Eiken said.

There’s time. According to a tentative plan for the project, HP aims to continue design work until 2023, when the first phase of construction is scheduled to begin. The company is aiming to move into the new buildings in late 2025.

HP made headlines just last week, when printer and copier company Xerox appeared poised for a hostile takeover of the rival tech giant. The two companies had been engaging in merger negotiations that fell apart in early November. HP then rejected Xerox’s $33.5 billion acquisition bid, accusing its would-be parent company of lowballing.

HP and Xerox have struggled over the last few years as market demand for their products — printers and personal computers, mainly — has sunk.

A statement provided to The Columbian on Nov. 6 said HP had “great confidence in our multi-year strategy and our ability to position the company for continued success.”

A call to the company’s Vancouver office Wednesday afternoon went unanswered.

Columbian staff writer