Sunday, April 11, 2021
April 11, 2021

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Vancouver’s Waterfront Gateway has suitors

City wants 6.4-acre parcel to become pedestrian haven

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:

The city of Vancouver is seeking a developer to transform 6.4 acres of land near City Hall into a pedestrian-friendly urban area with the same grandeur as the Waterfront Vancouver.

There’s no shortage of contenders vying to develop the “Waterfront Gateway,” which encompasses an area south of City Hall, the Hilton Vancouver Washington and West Sixth Street, between Columbia Street to the east and Grant Street to the west.

Twenty-eight developers and 14 design firms have already expressed interest in submitting designs and plans to build and finance the project, according to John Collum, the city’s economic development principal planner.

“There have been some developers that have been actively keeping up with where we’re going with this over the past couple of years,” he said.

The city is looking for a development partner with the qualifications, experience and financial background to lead the project. The city’s window for applications lasts three months; the City Center Redevelopment Authority board will review the submittals in July and August, though the timeline is flexible, Collum said.

“It’s hard to predict if that schedule will stick or be delayed,” he said. “In late summer or early fall, I think a selection will be made.”

The plan from the developers will include which blocks could become lease agreements, still owned by the city, and which pieces could be sold to the developers.

“We’re open to all possibilities,” Collum said, although he said the city will be firm with keeping a piece of land for a future parking garage for city employees working in City Hall. Collum also said the city is interested in a possible expansion of the Vancouver Convention Center near City Hall.

A century-old structure called the Webber Building still faces an uncertain future on the eastern edge of the property, in the way of possible expansion of the convention center.

One note on the city’s request for quotes states that prospective developers should “explore the practicality of retaining the Webber Building to maintain an element of historic character unique to the site area and appropriately integrating it into the district’s master plan.”

“We’ll probably look at options to see if it can be incorporated into the plans,” Collum said. “There’s been no decision to get rid of it.”

The land was appraised at $18.6 million last year, Collum said, although the effects of the pandemic make that number less clear.

The city purchased the property in 2010, along with the City Hall building, and it has been holding onto the property until the development projects at the Waterfront Vancouver and The Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 1 were more established, he said.

“We really do think this is another wave of great things that will come to downtown,” he said.

The Request for Quotation is available online at beheardvancouver.org/waterfrontgateway.

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