Thursday, December 3, 2020
Dec. 3, 2020

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Joe’s Crab Shack, Who Song and Larry’s may get reprieve

Development on east side of Interstate 5 Bridge will make room for longtime Vancouver favorites

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:
2 Photos
The proposed project from Kirkland Development would redevelop the site of Joe’s Crab Shack and Who Song and Larry’s, creating a mixed-use project with apartments, office and retail space and a possible hotel. It would also rebuild and widen the section of the Columbia Renaissance Trail that runs along the south side of the restaurants, which has been closed since 2007 due to a deteriorating foundation.
The proposed project from Kirkland Development would redevelop the site of Joe’s Crab Shack and Who Song and Larry’s, creating a mixed-use project with apartments, office and retail space and a possible hotel. It would also rebuild and widen the section of the Columbia Renaissance Trail that runs along the south side of the restaurants, which has been closed since 2007 due to a deteriorating foundation. Nathan Howard/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Kirkland Development has submitted a pre-application packet that sheds new light on a planned mixed-use project on Columbia Way just east of the Interstate 5 Bridge, at the current site of the restaurants Joe’s Crab Shack and Who Song and Larry’s.

The proposed project has evolved substantially in the past seven months, morphing from a pair of nine-story buildings to a set of three smaller buildings at the edge of the river and a larger building at the north side of the site.

And there’s an additional detail the packet doesn’t mention, according to project manager Dana Gardner: both restaurants are expected to move to the new buildings and continue operating on the site. The future of the two restaurants wasn’t as clear back when the project was announced in December, but Gardner said Kirkland Development chairman Dean Kirkland has been in talks with the owners of both restaurants to work out a plan to retain them.

The project will likely be built in stages, Gardner said, and the goal is to make sure the restaurants are able to remain open throughout the construction process.

“We would not demolish the two existing buildings without having a new building for them,” she said. “It’s got to work for them to have their businesses open.”

The pre-application packet includes an overhead site diagram of the 2.2-acre property that outlines the footprints of the four new buildings.

The three smaller buildings would each be three stories and are each labelled retail/office, ranging from 33,435 to 45,000 square feet. Two of them would be located in roughly the same spots as the current restaurant buildings, and the third would be directly west of the site of Joe’s Crab shack.

The larger building would be eight stories and would stretch across most of the north end of the site. The pre-application packet states that it would include approximately 100 apartments, 125 hotel rooms and 16,000 square feet of retail or office space, although Gardner said the exact configuration and final choice of uses are still subject to change. She mentioned condominiums as another potential use, and added the building will include two levels of internal parking. It’s also likely to be built in two phases, she said, although the final building would be one structure.

“A lot’s going depend on what the market is doing (when the project is closer to starting),” she said.

The pre-application also proposes relocating a portion of Columbia Way so it runs through the center of the site instead of along the northern edge. The diagram shows a new route for the road between the larger building and the row of smaller ones, using space that is currently part of the restaurants’ parking lot. The larger building would be partially located on space freed up by shifting the road.

The new route would be designed to discourage speeding, Gardner said, and would make the new development feel like a more connected community.

The site diagram includes a separate three-level parking garage to the north of the larger building, on what is currently an undeveloped field between Columbia Way and the BNSF Railway berm. It also shows a rebuilt section of the Waterfront Renaissance Trail running along the river’s edge to the south of the trio of office buildings.

The current trail passes over a short city-owned boardwalk on a pier to the west of Joe’s Crab Shack, and continues on a narrow walking path to the south of both restaurants. However, the pier was closed in 2007 due to a deteriorating foundation, and the pathway past the restaurants has also been blocked off.

Dean Kirkland expressed a strong interest in retaining and reopening the pathway when he announced the project in December, and the pre-application proposal appears consistent with that vision. The original pathway was only about six feet wide in some places, but the diagram indicates that the rebuilt trail would be 25 feet wide through the whole length of the site.

The pre-application states that the rebuilt trail is intended to be wide enough to host outdoor seating and food vendor kiosks, enabling the area to serve as a venue for farmers markets and other planned activities.

“The goal is to work with the city on really including and improving that promenade,” Gardner said.

The pre-application packet was submitted July 1 by Kirkland Development and Portland-based architecture firm Otak Inc., which is a partner on the project. A pre-application conference with the city is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on July 25.

The packet refers to the project as “Waterfront East,” although Gardner said that’s just the company’s working title and the project doesn’t have an official name yet. It also doesn’t have a definitive timeline or start date — the soonest possible starting point would be in about 18 months, Gardner said, but the timeline will be heavily dependent on the planning and approval process.

“There’s going to be a lot of feedback and a lot of entities involved,” she said.

The proposed development is the second riverfront project from Kirkland Development — the company is currently partway through construction of the Hotel Indigo and Kirkland Tower, which will add a hotel and 40 luxury condominiums to the Waterfront Vancouver area to the west of the I-5 Bridge. The project is slated for completion in 2020.

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