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June 13, 2021

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Vancouver City Council approves master plan for new HP campus

Development would build 1.5 million square feet of office space on former industrial mine

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

The Vancouver City Council approved HP Inc.’s master plan to relocate its Clark County campus to a former mining site, giving the company the official green light to construct a multibuilding, 1.5 million-square-foot complex.

Councilors voted unanimously to pass the master plan following a lengthy public hearing Monday evening. City leaders regard the project as a catalyst, one that they hope will spur further development of an abandoned, 553-acre site.

“HP is the fourth largest non-government employer within city limits, and is the largest private non-health care related employer,” Community and Economic Development Director Chad Eiken told the city council. “Vancouver is fortunate that HP has decided to stay and grow their base of operations here.”

HP, which makes printers and PCs, currently occupies an east Vancouver campus at the Columbia Tech Center and employs around 700 people.

They’re looking to relocate barely a mile away, to an area local planning officials refer to as Section 30. Residents of the area likely know it better as the former location of the English Pit gravel mine.

Vancouver leaders have sought to redevelop the area since it was annexed into the city in 2008. HP approached the city council with their proposal in December of 2019, and details were referred to the Planning Commission.

“This item has been on the city council’s agenda a couple of times over the last couple of years,” City Manager Eric Holmes said.

Under the master plan, HP will purchase 68 acres of Section 30 from the city. The property stretches along a segment of Northeast 184th Avenue, extending north from the intersection with Southeast First Street.
The company’s plan divides the campus into five building development sites, with nearly a dozen buildings tentatively slated along the west side of 184th between Southeast First and Northeast Ninth streets. The western half of the campus will be reserved for parking.

HP began grading work on the site — sunken into the ground after decades of industrial mining — last summer.

The first phase of construction will focus on two buildings on the southernmost side of the campus, with the build out moving progressively north. Under the terms of the agreement, Vancouver will be on the hook for about $3.5 million in utility and infrastructure improvements during that first phase.

“The HP master plan will govern development of the HP property for the next 15 to 20 years and beyond,” said Todd Smith, the company’s lead global transaction manager. “The master plan provides the path forward to transform a former mine site to offices, research and development and other uses.”

Once completed, the campus will occupy an estimated 1.5 million square feet of indoor space.

Just to the south is the existing English Estate Winery.

Impacts to existing properties

Much of the debate over the master plan Monday evening revolved around impacts to the surrounding properties, particularly the neighboring winery.

Maren Calvert, a local attorney who addressed the council on the winery’s behalf, argued that HP’s plan would obstruct the business’ views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood in violation of the city’s Section 30 Subarea Plan.

“The plan identifies certain properties with unique, existing uses,” Calvert said, adding that the winery was one such qualifying property. “The longterm cost and lost potential for the entire subarea will be substantial.”

The master plan passed Monday only partially addresses the issue. According to Senior Planner Mark Pearson, HP has and will continue to “consider the impact” of its development on the surrounding properties’ vistas.

Councilor Sarah Fox, who also works as a senior planner for the city of Camas, asked for a more narrow definition of “consider” in this context. She urged the city council to nail down the meaning of that language before HP begins development in earnest and surrounding property owners see their views change.

“What sort of guarantees might they have as they think about future development for their sites?” Fox asked.

“I don’t want to vote down this master plan. I think there’s a lot of great elements to it, and I definitely agree on how much of a catalyst for employment and for the future of the city that this plan can be. But there are a few just stinkers of details, I guess I’d call them, if we leave that terminology of ‘consider’ there.”

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