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News / Business / Clark County Business

Heights District project could start construction in 2026; Vancouver close to asking for proposals

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 28, 2024, 6:02am
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The city of Vancouver will issue a request for proposals next month for the first three sites in its Heights District Development project.
The city of Vancouver will issue a request for proposals next month for the first three sites in its Heights District Development project. (Contributed by the city of Vancouver) Photo Gallery

Construction on apartment buildings that will rise where Tower Mall once stood in Vancouver’s Heights neighborhood could start as soon as 2026, city councilors learned at a workshop Monday night.

The Heights District Development project covers 205 acres in central Vancouver, including the 63-acre Tower Mall Development, which the city plans to turn into a 20-minute community. The project will bring hundreds of residential units — including for low-income families — as well as commercial spaces to the area.

Perhaps more than any project in city limits, the Tower Mall Development is a symbol of Vancouver urbanizing out of suburbia.

The city will issue a request for proposals next month for the first three parcels pegged for development. They are on the northern side of the district near East Mill Plain Boulevard and North Devine Road.

A seven-member committee that includes two city planning commissioners and the owner of nearby Garside Florist will evaluate the proposals.

City officials plan to have development agreements in place by the end of the year, said Amy Zoltie, real estate project manager for the city.

“We do recognize that this is an aggressive schedule but (that’s) necessary to start redevelopment occurring and dirt moving,” Zoltie said.

The three developments include mixed-income and affordable housing, with space on the ground floor for businesses, for a total of 340 units.

Groundbreaking on the three parcels could occur as early as 2026, Zoltie said.

A city staff presentation said proposals should maximize density, provide subsurface parking, use alternative financing and ownership models, and demonstrate a commitment to equity.

“Many times this council is underwhelmed by what we’re able to accomplish on privately owned property, despite our best efforts to work with developers to get certain things our community needs or must have,” Mayor Pro Tem Erik Paulsen said. “This is an opportunity for us to dictate what will actually be here.”

City officials plan on adding art installations this spring to attract people to the area and create a sense that the Tower Mall is a destination, not just a shortcut to bypass traffic lights.

River Maiden coffee shop will stay on the property but will likely have to move to a new building, Zoltie said. River Maiden did not return a phone call from The Columbian.

The city will not renew its lease with Vanco Golf Range. The Vancouver institution that opened in the 1970s will shut its doors in October, owner Chuck Milne said. He had previously announced a plan to close the range at the end of 2020 before the lease was extended.

“I have real mixed emotions about it,” Milne said. “I’ll miss it. I’ll miss the people.”

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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.

Columbian staff writer