Our Voice: Temporary performing arts center a good start

So far, we’re impressed by the consulting firm working on the redevelopment of Vista Field in Kennewick.

They not only heard our cry for community input, but they also exceeded it, providing multiple opportunities for people to give their opinions and provide wish lists for the former airport site now targeted to become a destination entertainment complex.

Then, even more impressively, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. quickly turned that input into a very interesting preliminary vision.

For decades folks here have talked of the need for a performing arts center, but nothing ever came of the chatter. But now the Vista Field project has given new life to the idea.

The first phase of development could include a temporary performing arts center as its star attraction, according to the draft plan. At first, a temporary facility sounds subpar, but when you dig a little deeper, the idea has merit. It could be built using salvaged materials already part of buildings at Vista Field, repurposing no longer useful structures into something new and meaningful, just the kind of rebirth needed at the site.

The consultants assure there would be nothing second-rate about the temporary facility, which would be built near the Three Rivers Convention Center. And if they get something built sooner, rather than later, the community would start seeing Vista Field as a destination.

And they’d see that in this case, talk has indeed led to action.

The long-term vision is for an entertainment district with restaurants and nightlife, mixed with homes. The master plan from the consultant must include how to finance and implement the ideas, and those numbers are still being developed.

The draft includes cost-saving ideas, like using runway and taxiway locations as streets and putting in less costly overhead utilities camouflaged in alleys out of public view.

The consulting firm says it doesn’t do “show-stopper architecture” but instead creates “wonderful places that people love.” That sounds fitting for the Tri-Cities.

None of this will be possible without partners joining the Port of Kennewick in the project, in particular the city of Kennewick. One of the key recommendations from the consultant is that the port retain control of the redevelopment project, and work with multiple local, small developers rather than one mega developer.

Quality of work will be the driver, not the size of the operation, said the port’s executive director.

The refined version of the draft plan and a full report are expected to be presented to the port by the end of January.

Developing 113 acres in the heart of a city’s retail district is a rare opportunity; it needs to be done right. So far, we like what we see.