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News / Clark County News

Vancouver eyes property near downtown library for transit center

City council to vote on purchase of plot

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 11, 2023, 7:12pm

Behind a chain link fence next to the Vancouver Community Library sits one of downtown’s prime pieces of land: Library Square.

Although it doesn’t look like much now, overgrown with shin-high grass and the occasional dandelion and other uglier weeds, to Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, it’s a key part of the new Vancouver, one where the increased population causes the city to grow up, not out.

“People will need to move around,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “How do we help them do that and live and work and play and shop and have a job? This is just part of that system.”

At nearly 3.2 acres, the land is in the heart of downtown, a quick walk to Fort Vancouver, the waterfront, Esther Short Park and Uptown Village.

McEnerny-Ogle envisions it becoming Vancouver’s transit center, where light rail is scheduled to terminate, serving as a hub for C-Tran’s bus rapid transit lines and other routes. It would stand near the base of the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement.

“We’re excited for the possibilities that this location offers our community,” said Laura Merry, C-Tran’s chief of staff. “A strong transportation network boosts economic development and quality of life, and we certainly support the city’s efforts in planning for the future of our region.”

The purchase will also help solve one of the library’s biggest issues: parking. Additionally, the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program marked the location as a potential place for a Park & Ride.

On Monday, the Vancouver City Council will vote whether to purchase the land next to the library for $12 million. McEnerny-Ogle is optimistic the council will approve it.

Less than market value

If the city council approves the purchase, it will be getting a deal. Appraisers valued the five parcels of land that make up Library Square at $18 million to $20 million. The city will accept the difference as a donation.

The land is owned by Evergreen Investors LLC, an associate of Killian Pacific. Killian Pacific owns the Grand Central retail center and the Columbia Business Center.

“It’s very unheard of for a developer to take off one-third of the price of a piece of property,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “We’re building a community, and they’re part of the community. I think this is part of their vision to be a part of the community and to be an asset.”

“There are no ties here,” she added. “The first thing people usually think of is that they’ll get a kickback. That’s not the case.”

Lance Killian, Killian Pacific’s chief visionary officer, declined to comment.

Past plans for Library Square

Although plans are in motion, the land has a vexing history of failed plans.

Originally home to a car dealership, it was torn down in 2009 after voters approved funding the downtown library in 2006, and plans back then called for a parking garage with 200 public parking spaces to follow.

When the Great Recession hit, the plans were postponed.

In 2018, Vancouver Public Schools announced plans to buy a section of the property for a new elementary school before changing locations. The property was offered to the district for half the fair market value of the property.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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Columbian staff writer