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News / Business / Clark County Business

Flex industrial buildings in plans for east Vancouver’s Section 30

Neighbor says city of Vancouver has strayed from its original vision for parcel along Southeast First Street

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 18, 2023, 6:05am

Development of east Vancouver’s Section 30 may be continuing soon, as one company recently submitted its pre-planning application to the city of Vancouver.

The pre-planning documents showed proposals for two flex industrial buildings, as well as the extension of Northeast 184th Avenue through the property, which runs along Southeast First Street in Vancouver.

The land in question is owned by CTC Section 30 LLC, a project of Portland-based commercial real estate developer PacTrust.

PacTrust operates the nearby Columbia Tech Center and the PacTrust Corporate Park in central Vancouver.

The plans call for two 60,750-square-foot buildings to be built on 9.67 acres that are set back from the main road. A site map also shows that the other piece of the property, which is immediately adjacent to Southeast First Street, is being proposed for commercial use.

Section 30 is home to what was once the English Gravel Pit.

After the gravel pit was shuttered, the city of Vancouver planned for Section 30 to become a mixed-use employment center, combining places not only for jobs but also for living and recreating. The vision was to eventually mirror the Columbia Tech Center on the other side of Southeast First Street, according to The Columbian archives.

Much work is needed to achieve that goal, however. Construction began last year on revamping Southeast First Street, which has been up until now a rural two-lane road. Plus, the previous mining operations have left the land there in need of grading.

The pre-planning documents show that part of the parcel for the proposed industrial buildings would be cut down and part would be graded up. The plans mention the site using fill from the nearby Granite Construction Co. site, which would delay work on the buildings until Granite’s lease expires in February 2025.

Just down the street, Jennifer English Wallenberg owns English Estate Winery, a farm that has been in her family for generations.

She doesn’t have a specific problem with the proposed buildings, but she is concerned that the city of Vancouver has forgotten its commitment to making Section 30 an employment engine.

“It’s a little sad to us that the vision of a mixed-use, walkable area that feels like an urban neighborhood, described in the Section 30 Subarea Plan, doesn’t seem to be happening,” said Wallenberg in a statement Wednesday.

The city’s initial vision for the land was to create more than 9,000 jobs in Section 30. But between this proposed development and the proposed HP campus next door, Wallenberg doesn’t see how that number will be realized.

The PacTrust property abuts HP’s planned research-and-development site on Southeast First Street. The technology company submitted pre-planning documents to the city of Vancouver last fall, proposing a 135,000-square-foot office building and a second building encompassing 25,000 square feet of office space and 75,000 square feet of research-and-development space.

The HP proposal is just for the first phase of development there, as the city allowed HP to develop up to 98 acres of land in Section 30.

Plan ‘disregarded’

Meanwhile, PacTrust’s proposed industrial buildings, Wallenberg said, look like warehouses to her because they will have loading docks. Warehouses were specifically called out by the city as not meeting its vision for Section 30, she said.

Flex buildings are built to appeal to a variety of businesses, which may include warehousing goods but also may include research and development, office space or clean manufacturing. It’s worth noting that PacTrust advertises many properties in its Columbia Tech Center as flex space.

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“A lot of effort and thought was put into the (Section 30) Subarea Plan, and it’s sad to see the spirit of it being, from my perspective, largely disregarded,” said Wallenberg.

From the city’s perspective, the plans for Section 30 are now 15 years old and the economy has changed — something that is typical in long-range plans.

“Some of the assumptions about the type of development we might see there are no longer likely, partly due to changes in the market, as well as varied interests by individual property owners,” Chad Eiken, community development director with the city of Vancouver, said in a statement Wednesday.

“We may need to recalibrate the expectations of the total number of jobs we will see, but there will still be opportunities for other properties to develop with a mix of uses, including housing, offices and supporting commercial services and amenities,” he said.