Our Voice: Columbia Drive redevelopment shows promise with architectural contract

The Port of Kennewick took another major step toward its planned boutique wine village along the waterfront by hiring an architect last week.

The port plans to transform the area between Columbia Drive and Clover Island, from Washington Street to the cable bridge, into an area that will bring tourists and locals downtown.

It's a concept that has long been discussed but had never gotten much traction until the port began chipping away at it in recent years, making the needed land acquisitions to redevelop the area.

Architect Tere Thornhill of Pasco got the nod to design the buildings. His contract is for the design of three tasting room and wine incubator buildings that will replace a 1970's cinderblock building on East Columbia Drive. The value of the contract is up to $216,000. A contract for up to $58,300 was also awarded to David Robinson of Strategic Construction Management.

Bids for construction of the buildings will likely go out in the fall. Those three buildings are expected to cost $1.8 million, and the wine village will be known as Columbia Gardens.

It's exciting to see the plans becoming reality.

The bridge-to-bridge corridor has long been discussed as the key to bringing folks downtown. Many a plan has been floated but none have made it this far.

Waterfront development in the Tri-Cities is sorely needed. Look at other river towns and you'll see the Tri-Cities is light on opportunities by comparison.

Using wine as the magnet is a natural choice, given that we are in the heart of Washington's burgeoning wine country. The state is now home to more than 800 wineries. The lands surrounding the Tri-Cities produce much of the wine grape crop used by wineries across the state. Other neighboring ports have used the incubator and tasting room models with great success.

The city of Kennewick has come on board for the project and we hope its commitment is for the long-term. While progress is being made, there is still a long way to go before we're swirling Merlot where a dilapidated motel once stood.

To sweeten the pot for wineries, the city will build a wastewater pretreatment facility where the old mini golf course sits at the base of the cable bridge that could treat wastewater from up to 160,000 cases of wine production each year. The city has budgeted $800,000 for the project, which will be housed in a port-owned building.

Adding to the appeal for visitors will be the completion of the path around Duffy's Pond to Clover Island and Columbia Drive.

And this is just the beginning of the project. More land will be redeveloped as it evolves.

Although no winery tenants have been identified yet, the port will start reaching out to potential tenants next spring. We can't wait to see who wants to be a part of this exciting evolution for downtown Kennewick.