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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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Vancouver’s Heights District project wins Governor’s Smart Communities Award

City lauded for plan to develop mixed-use, affordable neighborhood

By , Columbian staff reporter

The city of Vancouver’s Heights District Development — a project for a 205-acre mixed-use, walkable neighborhood with affordable housing — is one of the 11 winners of the 2023 Governor’s Smart Communities Awards.

The annual awards recognize local governments and their partners for exceptional land use planning and development. The winning projects are meant to serve as examples for other communities, according to a Washington State Department of Commerce news release.

“This year’s winners are tackling everything from housing affordability to environmental restoration, proving that our state can do anything it sets its mind to,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in a press release.

For the last several years, the city of Vancouver has been planning to build a “20-minute community,” where people can walk to stores, restaurants, parks, schools and transit stations within around 20 minutes.

The community will be in the area where Vancouver’s first shopping mall, Tower Mall, used to be.

The award highlighted one of the development’s main goals: avoiding the displacement of existing residents while revitalizing the area.

The city owns around half of the parcels within the Heights District development area and plans to make them affordable. Additionally, the city’s multifamily tax exemption may create moderately affordable housing in the area’s private development.

City officials estimate the project will create around 900 units of affordable housing.

Amy Zoltie, project manager with the city of Vancouver, said in a press release the city is honored to receive the award.

“Some redevelopment activities in the past have done notable harm to particular communities, so part of moving forward in an equitable way is to acknowledge that and understand that we have to do things differently than we’ve done in the past,” she said.

“The Heights District is envisioned as a vibrant neighborhood center that is sustainable, healthy, equitable, accessible and safe.”

The city will request proposals for initial development parcels in the first few months of 2024. Construction on initial infrastructure will likely begin in fall 2024, according to the city.

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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.