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News / Business

First building set to break ground at Port of Kalama business park

By Sydney Brown, The Daily News
Published: June 9, 2023, 7:31am

KALAMA — The Spencer Creek Business Park is slated to break ground on its first building after years of planning at the Port of Kalama.

The port expects to start work on a new 43,000-square-foot building by early next year, with the expectation to finish by early 2025, Port of Kalama spokesperson Dan Polacek said in an email.

The building would house 16 suites at 2,400 square feet each, which a variety of businesses will be able to lease, Polacek said. No one has leased space yet.

Development of the $100 million business park centers on the hope it will bring more than 1,000 local jobs as well as establish a multiuse commercial property that could house any number of services like lodging, food or retail.

It’s been a yearslong pursuit by the Port of Kalama.

Before major road improvement work began in 2017, the site was used for single-family homes, sports fields and the old Kalama fairgrounds. Polacek said the port decided to move the sports fields and fairgrounds to Haydu Park, which now has 40 acres for sports, events and access to 2,500 feet of Kalama River shoreline.

The change opened up the Spencer Creek site for repurpose projects, which the port promptly put into action.

Commissioners hired C&R Tractor and Landscaping for $5.59 million in 2020 to build a roundabout, resurface roads and do general landscaping at the site. Columbia West Engineering was hired for “geotechnical” services at the business park, which included soil testing, ground improvement and stormwater management.

Port commissioners and Kelso-based Pacific Tech signed a marketing and development agreement in 2020 to solicit tenants for seven of the 70 available acres, according to a report from The Daily News. No one has leased a suite out of the building yet, “which is typical of this type of development,” Polacek said.

The port estimates a total project cost of “well over $100 million,” Polacek said. While Polacek said no one has found a grant that would help with the cost, the revenue from the port’s marine terminals and land leases will shoulder the expenses of the project.

Zoned for multiuse purposes by the City of Kalama, Polacek said the new building can usher in a more diverse local economy.

The project comes at a time when ports in the Lower Columbia River are seeing promising financial growth. Port CEO Mark Wilson told The Daily News earlier this year the port brought in enough money to widen its scope and look at projects centered on tourism. The port in 2022 approved $32.2 million in capital projects, which has so far come to fruition in the form of the small American Cruise Line dock that opened last summer.

The $19 million Mountain Timber Market, another largescale Port of Kalama project that will eventually provide dining, art, wine tastings and retail services, is a close cousin of the Spencer Creek Business Park, both with an ultimate goal of expanding local business.

“While Spencer Creek Business Park and Mountain Timber Market (MTM) are not directly related,” Polacek wrote in an email, “it is our hope that the smaller spaces the Port has created inside the new SCBP building … will allow those new business to relocate and expand as they become more successful in the market.”