Our Voice: Richland's plans for Columbia Point part of Tri-City revival

It sure feels as though the Tri-Cities is on the cusp of an era of revived development.

From the activity under way between the bridges in Kennewick to the start of construction of a Hilton hotel on George Washington Way at the site of a condo project that started strong with a fancy clubhouse but stopped abruptly five years ago, signs of renewed activity are all around us.

And now the city of Richland is looking for proposals for the last three waterfront lots in the Columbia Point Master Plan area.

The city is hoping to create a day and evening entertainment center in Richland.

Two of the sites are on either side of Anthony's at Columbia Point. The city foresees a restaurant on the lot to the east of Anthony's and a boutique-style hotel to the west.

The third and largest piece of property is 22 acres southeast of the Shilo Inn and north of the Columbia Point Golf Course. The city wants to develop about half the land there into an entertainment district with bars, restaurants, retail shops and possibly some high-density multi-family dwellings.

That land was once the future home of ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston in the Tri-Cities. The company purchased the land from the city with the intent to put an office building there, but things changed. With great foresight, the city had included a buy-back clause in the sales contract that it could use if development stalled. The city got the land back last spring and said it would be "working to have something special" created there.

Proposals are due Dec. 6. City staff and a subcommittee of the council will take a look and recommend projects. The city council could reach decisions on the proposals as early as March.

Waterfront attractions beyond our lovely trail system and parks have always been lacking in the Tri-Cities. Richland, much like the Port of Kennewick and private developers of the waterfront along Columbia Drive, has a chance to change that. But the city must proceed with caution.

Wise decisions are needed. We want to see developments that enhance the waterfront experience, not detract from it.

We could see work begin on the hotel and restaurant projects near Anthony's within one year of the council's decision.

Anthony's quickly became a community favorite when it was built. The restaurant maintains lovely landscaping and has access for boaters and people using the trail. A facility of the same standard is needed. We have nice hotels at Columbia Point already, and the city needs to look carefully for something that complements the existing mix.

With words of caution and care extended to the city in its decision-making process, we're excited to see the proposals that will be submitted to the city next month.

In the very near future, the face of the waterfront from the Cable Bridge to Columbia Point will look a whole lot different. The redevelopment in the works in Kennewick and the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center are already changing our riverfront on a daily basis. It's a great time to be in the Tri-Cities, and we look forward to more destination options along the river.