Vancouver Waterfront development shifting into high gear

The Port of Vancouver’s Terminal 1 site is the latest to see a new project get underway

VANCOUVER — You can’t even access Vancouver’s new Waterfront yet, but if you spend a short time outside the fences you’ll likely see plenty of people walking by to snap pictures.

Construction moves ahead at the Vancouver Waterfront development. The 7-acre public park is set to open in September. Photo by Chris Brown
Construction moves ahead at the Vancouver Waterfront development. The 7-acre public park is set to open in September. Photo by Chris Brown

The massive project to reconnect both sides of the Columbia River shoreline on the west side of I-5 to the existing Renaissance Trail and Fort Vancouver on the east side is finally starting to substantially take shape.

This week crews are finishing up demolishing the old Columbia Shores office building, which was built in 1968. It had been used most recently as office space for a number of small businesses. In place of the office building, Vesta Hospitality is building a new nine story AC by Marriott hotel with 160 rooms and additional parking space.

Construction moves ahead at the Vancouver Waterfront development. The 7-acre public park is set to open in September. Photo by Chris Brown
Construction moves ahead at the Vancouver Waterfront development. The 7-acre public park is set to open in September. Photo by Chris Brown

The $1.5 billion Vancouver Waterfront project will begin to wind down Phase 1 by the end of this year. It features a new 7-acre public park, 3,300 new residential units, well over a million square feet of office space, several flagship restaurants and an iconic pier that will stretch out over the Columbia River.

The Port of Vancouver plans a public marketplace at the site of their original 1920’s warehouse at Terminal 1. Document courtesy Port of Vancouver
The Port of Vancouver plans a public marketplace at the site of their original 1920’s warehouse at Terminal 1. Click to open PDF. Document courtesy Port of Vancouver

At least two of those restaurants are expected to open this Summer, and the park is slated for a September opening.

The bulk of the project is being built in partnership with the city of Vancouver, Columbia Waterfront LLC, and Gramor Development. The Port of Vancouver is working with Vesta Hospitality on the Terminal 1 development, along with several blocks east of the new Waterfront Park area.

 

This flier shows one concept of what the eventual public marketplace at Terminal 1 could look like. Document courtesy Port of Vancouver
This flier shows one concept of what the eventual public marketplace at Terminal 1 could look like. Click to open PDF. Document courtesy Port of Vancouver

Aside from the plans for the new hotel, there are plans for office space, and a public market that will go up on the dock where Warehouse 23 currently sits. The restaurant has a lease with the Port through 2020, and the Port says it will honor that. But eventually the dock under the restaurant, and the entire building it’s housed in, will need to be replaced.

 

“We’re doing a repair on it right now that’s going to get us through the next 3-5 years,” says Jim Hagar,  Economic Development project manager for the Port, “then after that we’re going to have to take the entire dock structure down, the buildings down, build a new dock, and then ultimately put the public market on the new dock.”

Due to required infrastructure upgrades, the cost just to replace the dock is estimated at $20 million dollars, and Hagar says the Port is still examining ways to secure funding. The public will get their first chance to see the concepts for the new Marketplace in late May. That feedback will lead to a preferred alternative by next August, then more design work before a timeline can be put together.

“We figure the marketplace itself will probably cost around $15 million on top of all the costs for the dock,” says Hagar, “so I’m hearing for all the public space, the dock, and the marketplace, we’re looking at somewhere between $45 and $60 million. So, since we’re not flush with cash, we’ve got to figure out how we structure that, and how we figure out to take it in bite-sized chunks.”

This concept shows what the Vancouver Waterfront should look like once it’s finished. Photo courtesy Port of Vancouver
This concept shows what the Vancouver Waterfront should look like once it’s finished. Photo courtesy Port of Vancouver

Hagar says that will probably come in the form of some cost-sharing between the Port, Vesta, and the state. While the Port’s return on the public investment isn’t expected to be large, the state could see a chance to profit from sales tax revenue.

In total, the estimated development cost of the Terminal 1 build out is at least $200 million. The 10-acre development will transform four city blocks. The initial plans call for 60,000 square feet of retail space, 200,000 square feet of commercial space, more than 300 new apartments and condos, in addition to the public market and new dock.

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