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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Vancouver council approves Renaissance Boardwalk agreement

City councilors establish time frame, greenlight stronger climate goals for waterfront redevelopment project

By Calley Hair, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 12, 2021, 8:44pm
6 Photos
Renderings visualize a proposed development on a 2.3-acre plot just east of the Interstate 5 bridge, the current location of local restaurants Who Song &amp; Larry's and Joe's Crab Shack.
Renderings visualize a proposed development on a 2.3-acre plot just east of the Interstate 5 bridge, the current location of local restaurants Who Song & Larry's and Joe's Crab Shack. Kirkland Development plans to construct four mixed-use buildings on the site with space for restaurants, retail and apartments, as well as a 309-space underground parking lot and a public boardwalk. Photo Gallery

Vancouver will move forward with a plan to transform a dilapidated waterfront pier and two old restaurant buildings into a luxury housing, retail and parking complex after originally shelving the project until the builder agreed to stricter climate goals.

City councilors unanimously approved the development agreement for the Renaissance Boardwalk project at their regular meeting Monday. As a stipulation of the new deal, Kirkland Development agreed to meet LEED Gold energy efficiency and sustainability standards.

The development agreement also mandates that the project’s residential units will use only electric power, with no natural gas use except for a potential gas-burning fire pit on the common patio.

Kirkland additionally volunteered to increase the number of charging stations for electric vehicles in the development’s parking garage, up to 100 stations from the initial offering of four.

“I very much appreciate you moved to 100. I would recommend to the developer to be forward-thinking in laying additional conduit,” Councilor Ty Stober said during Monday’s hearing. “We’re going that direction, so better to lay the conduit now than have to dig it back at some point in the future.”

City councilors also debated over whether the development agreement should include a legally binding end date for construction, and how much leeway that time frame should reasonably encompass. Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said she was concerned about the possibility of the project stretching on indefinitely and how that would impact the accessibility of the waterfront trail and surrounding area. Councilors Stober and Erik Paulsen agreed.

“It’s legally binding, but what’s the remedy?” Stober asked.

“We know very well about a development project in downtown that went pretty much for a decade, and all the things that were supposed to have happened never happened, and there was never any remedy to it,” he added, in an apparent reference to the acre of downtown property called Block 10 that sat largely vacant until last year.

The council ultimately settled on a three-year deadline. The clock will start once Kirkland Development receives its construction permits.

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The city council had been scheduled to approve the agreement more than a month ago. But they sent the project back to the drawing board, claiming that the proposal’s lackluster climate goals left more to be desired.

Kirkland’s original plan would have agreed to meet LEED Silver certification requirements, which would have aligned it with the buildings at the Waterfront Vancouver development just on the other side of Interstate 5.

At the last hearing on June 7, the company’s CEO, Dean Kirkland, complained that his latest proposal was “being held to a higher standard than the west side.”

Paulsen countered that those climate requirements had been established more than a decade ago.

“Our thinking about sustainability … has evolved substantially in that time,” he said.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a widely-recognized credentialing program used to measure building efficiency. Its four levels — Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum — are distinguished with a point-based system that awards more points for climate-friendly features. Using sustainable building materials and installing energy and water-efficient infrastructure, for instance, can boost a project’s LEED score.

About the development

Kirkland’s proposal would demolish the two restaurant buildings on the 2.03 acre plot directly east of the I-5 bridge — Who Song and Larry’s, and the structure that formerly housed a Joe’s Crab Shack — and build four new buildings.

The 140,000 square feet of new development would include an eight-story, 220-unit residential building with ground-floor retail or restaurant space, and three additional three-story mixed-use buildings with office space, retail and restaurants.

His proposal also includes an underground parking garage with space for 309 vehicles.

As part of a local program aimed at boosting housing density, the residential portion of the project will also receive an eight-year break on its property taxes. In exchange, Kirkland agreed to demolish the ramshackle pier that currently borders the property’s Columbia River bank.

The pier, which has been closed to foot traffic for the last 14 years, will be replaced with the development’s titular Renaissance Boardwalk. The boardwalk will measure 15 feet across and serve as a public walkway connecting existing waterfront trails directly to the west and east.

The site of the proposed development makes it of particular interest to city leaders — located barely 200 feet from the northern edge of the I-5 bridge, it’s the first thing most travelers see when entering Vancouver.

Upon the project’s introduction in March, Councilor Bart Hansen called the property the “gateway to Vancouver.”

“I think we can do a lot better. In fact, right now I think it’s a bit of an eyesore,” Hansen said at the time.

Who Song & Larry’s is owned by California-based company Xperience Restaurant Group. Xperience CEO Randy Sharpe told The Columbian on Tuesday morning that the company doesn’t intend to vacate the building before its 20-year lease — renewed last year — expires.

“We have a lease until 2041, and our expectation is to not leave early,” Sharpe said.

Columbian staff writer