The site is currently home to the Joe’s Crab Shack and Who Song & Larry’s restaurants
VANCOUVER — Vancouver City Council members expressed early support Monday for a planned redevelopment on 2.3 acres of land east of the Interstate Bridge on I-5.
The Kirkland Development proposal for the site currently home to the now-defunct Joe’s Crab Shack, along with Who Song & Larry’s includes four buildings, down from five in an earlier proposal. The tallest of those would be an 8-story building with up to 220 high-end apartment units and 16,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.
The other three buildings would be three stories tall and include 122,000 square feet of office, retail, and ground floor restaurant space that the developer says could house as many as eight restaurants.
Building heights would range from 85 feet to 105 feet, with the tallest on the west side of the property to fit within Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for nearby Pearson Field.
While final design work remains to be done, Councilor Bart Hansen said during the work session that he’s excited to see something new on that part of the city’s waterfront, which is the first thing people see when they come into the state of Washington on I-5 and is “a bit of an eyesore.”
“I’m excited to claim that waterfront space and get it back to the public,” added Hansen, “because right now it’s definitely not what it could be and what it once was.”
Kirkland has agreed to remove the current Joe’s Crab Shack and Who Song & Larry’s signs along the river wall, which would be restored to its natural state.
Council members have also expressed support for expanding the downtown area’s Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) boundary to include the site.
In exchange for eight years of property tax breaks, Kirkland would demolish a city-owned pier along the waterfront which has been closed since 2007, and create a new ADA-compliant walkway connecting the existing sections of the Renaissance Trail on either side of the site.
The plan also calls for 15 surface parking lots, along with a 309-space underground parking structure that would include high tech “stacking” spots for up to three vehicles each.
Under the proposed Developer’s Agreement, which could receive final approval later this Summer, Kirkland would have up to 10 years to complete the development, though Community and Economic Development Director Chad Eiken said the plan is to complete the project “much sooner than that.”
Kirkland Development is the same company building Hotel Indigo and the Kirkland Tower on Lot 4 of the Port of Vancouver’s Waterfront property west of the bridge, and CEO Dean Kirkland promised the council that honoring the history of the Renaissance Trails development would be a key component of the project.
“It’ll be top notch and inviting for all aspects of the community,” Kirkland said.
In her comments, Councilor Laurie Lebowsky wondered about the quality of the businesses that might make use of the site.
“I’m thinking of that restaurant that’s on the Portland side of the bridge,” she said, “and that’s what you see when you’re leaving Oregon.”
“No offense to Hooters, but we’re not going to put Hooters over there,” responded Kirkland. “So it’ll be very classy.”
Current plans call for the public boardwalk along the waterfront to be at least 15-feet wide, with room for bikes, pedestrians, and other uses.
“It shouldn’t produce any kind of claustrophobia or feeling overwhelmed as you travel through that,” agreed Councilor Ty Stober.
Kirkland said their initial estimate for the cost of demolishing the existing pier, which closed in 2007 over concerns that it was in danger of collapsing, would be up to $1.8 million. They have also proposed a marker to highlight the historic Witness Tree that once stood in the spot to honor the arrival of the Lewis and Clark expedition, as well as several potential kiosks describing the history of the region.
Several council members also urged planners to seek input from native tribes, in hopes of finding ways to honor their history as well.
The City Center Redevelopment Authority will next examine the proposal, which will likely come back to City Council in June.
Fate of existing restaurants
While Joe’s Crab Shack representatives announced last May that they were closing down due to the economic impact of the pandemic, Who Song & Larry’s has remained open. The owner, California-based Xperience Restaurants, had initially been in talks with Kirkland to incorporate the long-time Vancouver location into the new development, but those talks have apparently fallen through.
Who Song & Larry’s has over 30 years remaining on their current lease, so it’s unclear what Kirkland’s plan is at this point. The topic was not discussed at Monday’s work session.