Our Voice: Get involved in Vista Field; the potential is exciting

Having 113 acres of vacant land available in the center of a community like the Tri-Cities is a almost unheard of. Having that land owned by one public agency and available for master planning creates an opportunity of such vast potential it’s almost hard to comprehend.

The Port of Kennewick took the first and most critical step in building a new Tri-Cities vision for the former Vista Field Airport when they created the independent Vista Vision Task Force. The task force includes representatives across a broad spectrum of our community. Choosing Columbia Basin College President Rich Cummins to lead the task force is evidence the Port recognizes this isn’t just a Kennewick project.

The port is to be applauded for that choice and for avoiding the temptation to manage or control the task force. They’ve said they want the community to help create this vision and so far they appear serious about that.

It may take decades for the full potential of this project to be realized. But if we are to maximize this incredible opportunity, we need enthusiasm — and patience. We need commitments of elected officials and property owners to continue to be collaborative, inclusive and visionary. We need the commissioners to stay true to their long-term outlook. We also need strong public participation.

That’s why the Vista Vision Task Force is hoping for a good turnout Monday night and throughout the week as it brainstorms ideas on how best to develop the former airport in a way that benefits the entire region for decades to come.

With proximity to the Toyota Center, the Three Rivers Convention Center, restaurants, movie theaters and Columbia Center, this parcel of vacant land cries out for something special to be done with it. Several possibilities have been suggested, including the building of a performing arts center which could serve as an anchor for a plaza or downtown-type district.

But that’s just one example. The possibilities are really too numerous to count, and that is why public input is so critical. People who have traveled and seen what other cities have done to encourage tourism should attend and share their insight. Everyone is welcome. It’s not intended to be a project that belongs only to Kennewick, but to the entire region.

The land to be developed belongs to the Port of Kennewick, and its commissioners are wisely trying to include officials from the city and the Kennewick Irrigation District in a joint effort to design something spectacular. Such cooperation is not usually seen in the Tri-Cities and it is refreshing.

While the centerpiece of the initiative is the old airport, it’s critical to look at connecting it to the rest of the community. That means looking at lands not owned by the port. Much of the the land near the airport is owned by two other agencies that hopefully share the same vision, the Kennewick Irrigation District and the city of Kennewick. Some of the land also is privately owned. It is in the best interest of the community and the property owners to delay any immediate development plans. The land likely is to become more valuable as the project solidifies.

The task force is asking the city and KID to consider holding off on any land use decisions on those parcels for a few months. In about six months, task force representatives say, an outline for a development plan should be in place. That certainly is a reasonable request.

The vision for Vista Field must be bigger than any one spot in any one city. The task force is urging participation from Pasco, Richland and the surrounding area.

Task force members are calling the meeting a “charrette,” because it means a “final intensive effort” to finish a project, especially an architectural project. It begins with an overview from 5 to 8 p.m. at 6600 W. Deschutes, Building B, Kennewick. The meetings continue Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and a complete schedule can be found at www.PortOfKennewick.org.

If you can only make one session, attend Monday to get an overview.