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Developers plan 250-unit apartment complex in Vancouver’s Heights District

Application is first potential project in area city hopes to revamp

By , Columbian business reporter
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A developer has submitted preliminary plans to build a 250-unit affordable apartment complex at the site of the Park Hill Center.
A developer has submitted preliminary plans to build a 250-unit affordable apartment complex at the site of the Park Hill Center. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Less than two months after the Vancouver City Council reopened the door for development in the Heights District, the first potential project has come knocking.

Developers DevCo of Bellevue and Blueline of Kirkland have submitted a preliminary application for a 250-unit affordable apartment complex on Mill Plain Boulevard, on an 8-acre site currently home to the Park Hill Center.

The shopping center sits to the east of the Park Hill Cemetery. The adjacent Heights Shopping Center at the corner of Mill Plain Boulevard and Andresen Road is a separate property.

The pre-application narrative refers to the project as Vancouver Mill Plain Apartments, and describes a set of eight four-story wood frame apartment buildings, plus a separate 7,000-square-foot leasing and recreation building with amenities such as a pool, game room and fitness center.

The units would range from one to four bedrooms and would all feature private deck or patio space. Two of the proposed buildings on the north side of the site would include ground-floor commercial or office space facing Mill Plain Boulevard, totaling about 650 square feet.

The developers also propose adding a pedestrian access walkway along the east side of the site to connect Mill Plain Boulevard with the cemetery and nearby schools. The project would include 409 parking spaces, according to the site plan.

The project would apparently involve demolishing the existing shopping center. The pre-application packet doesn’t directly say that, but the included site diagram shows the residential buildings distributed across the entire property, overlapping with the current shopping center footprint.

DevCo and Blueline did not return calls requesting comment. A pre-application conference with the city has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 7.

Heights plan

The 205-acre Heights District covers all of the area between Mill Plain Boulevard, MacArthur Boulevard and Andresen Road in central Vancouver, as well as some adjacent parcels on the far sides of those roads. In addition to the Park Hill and Heights shopping centers, it includes the Park Hill Cemetery, three schools and the Tower Mall shopping center.

Vancouver’s Heights District Plan aims to guide redevelopment of the area, transforming it into a major urban sector with a high-density residential and business presence. The city council adopted the final version of the plan in early August, capping off more than three years of work.

The council also voted to end a temporary development moratorium that the city had placed on the area while it developed the plan, which includes a new Heights District zoning code designation that allows for taller buildings and denser housing units.

The largest piece of the Heights puzzle is the Tower Mall redevelopment area, which includes the mall itself as well as most of the surrounding commercial buildings and some properties on the far side of Mill Plain Boulevard and Devine Road, such as the Vanco Golf Range.

The city purchased the Tower Mall property in 2017 with the goal of facilitating redevelopment of the mostly vacant shopping center. The next step will be to demolish the mall building, long-range planning manager Rebecca Kennedy told The Columbian in August — a process which is tentatively scheduled for the fall.

The passage of the district plan and the lifting of the moratorium frees up other property owners in the district to pursue redevelopment projects of their own — and the Park Hill project appears to be the first in line.

“The Heights plan moratorium was just lifted and this just went into effect earlier this month, so this is definitely the first one through the door,” said senior planner Mark Person.

The apartment complex plan might require some adjustments as the pre-application process plays out, he said, but the Heights plan calls for a variety of housing options and a mix of incomes, so the proposed project does appear to fit the city’s vision for the area.

Columbian business reporter

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