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Jan. 26, 2023

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Gluesenkamp Perez tours areas key to Vancouver’s vision for future

Mayor McEnerny-Ogle, staff seek new congresswoman’s support for important projects

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
7 Photos
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, center, and Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, left, listen to Teresa Brum, city economic development division manager, talk about the Vancouver waterfront on Friday during a tour of key infrastructure projects.
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, center, and Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, left, listen to Teresa Brum, city economic development division manager, talk about the Vancouver waterfront on Friday during a tour of key infrastructure projects. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Vancouver officials are eager for Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez to champion their projects intended for the city’s evolution. So much, in fact, they decided to pack her on a bus and take her on a field trip to illustrate their vision.

Perez, D-Skamania, traveled with Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle and a gaggle of city staff early Friday afternoon to key infrastructure projects that could be greatly assisted by federal funding. They highlighted the importance earmarks, or small grants provided to programs in congressional districts, will have in the growth of Vancouver.

And they are confident Southwest Washington’s representative can help.

“I’m excited we have someone to champion our efforts,” said Teresa Brum, city deputy director of economic development.

On the list of stops were the 32nd Avenue extension project in Fruit Valley, the Vancouver waterfront, Main Street, the Heights District and Section 30.

The citywide road trip was the congresswoman’s first district tour, taking place less than a week after she was sworn into the 118th Congress.

“I was pretty excited to hear about how centrally (the city of Vancouver) considered small businesses in this, both ensuring there is continuity in the neighborhoods and minimizing plans of disruption,” Perez said after the outing. “That’s really encouraging to me.”

The group launched from City Hall and headed to Vancouver’s western point to kick off their demonstration of what Vancouver will ultimately resemble.

For years, the city of Vancouver had worked to collect state and federal funding to rebuild its Fruit Valley neighborhood road network.

In particular, the city is focusing on its Northwest 32nd Avenue extension project, a plan to create a new freight arterial near the Port of Vancouver. The new road connecting Lower River Road to 78th Street is intended to relieve traffic congestion for the west Vancouver corridor and, consequently, reduce air pollution in the Fruit Valley neighborhood caused by freight trucks.

City officials previously applied for grants through state and federal departments of transportation in 2022 but were not awarded any funding through either program, said Ryan Lopossa, city streets and transportation manager. According to a city-led feasibility study in 2019, the project will require roughly $135 million to complete, which includes a replacement of the Fruit Valley Road railroad overpass.

Soon they wound back through the downtown core to highlight The Waterfront Vancouver, one of the city’s prized developments, and Main Street’s upcoming remodel.

The waterfront has existed as a hub of continuous construction, with cranes having claimed a designated position along Vancouver’s skyline. With project completion approaching, however, city staff said there is a greater emphasis to address the Main Street corridor while boosting small businesses lining the stretch.

It’s something Perez said she was particularly interested in. She hopes to be assigned to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business.

The next stop was the Heights District in central Vancouver, which has previously been tagged by city planners as “an opportunity for world-class place-making.” It’s a prime focus for the city in accelerating Vancouver’s growth, leading them to ardently apply for state and federal grants.

According to development plans, it is expected to host retail spaces and about 1,800 residential units, a quarter of which would be reserved as affordable options with rent control. Project staff are currently working on the Heights’ streets, plaza and park design and engineering plans.

They ended the tour in east Vancouver near the Camas border, where a 553-acre lot reserved for the development of the city’s largest employment centers sits. The property, tagged as Section 30, resembled what the Vancouver waterfront once looked like: a large plot of mud and patchy grass.

Similar to Vancouver’s waterfront, city planners have big ideas for what it could become.

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