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March 7, 2016

Port of Vancouver USA to use 10-acre site for biotech, housing, hotel, retail

  • The goal is to create a regional attraction for locals and visitors — as well as top-notch biotech firms.
    Journal Staff Reporter

    Rendering courtesy of Port of Vancouver USA [enlarge]
    The port’s site on the Columbia River is next to a 32-acre development being planned by a group headed by Gramor Development.

    The Port of Vancouver USA plans to start construction next year on a biotech park that will be part of a 10-acre, mixed-use complex at Terminal 1 on the Columbia River.

    The property is in downtown Vancouver and adjacent to Interstate 5. A master plan for the complex by NBBJ calls for 100,000 square feet in the biotech park, 12,000 square feet of retail, 150 to 180 hotel rooms, up to 250 housing units, a 32,000-square-foot public marketplace and parking.

    The port is seeking firms to develop all but the hotel. Qualifications are due by March 23, according to a notice in the Feb. 26 DJC. The developers, including the hotel developer, would have a ground lease for 80 years, and then the buildings would revert to the port, according to Katy Brooks, director of economic development for port.

    In the meantime, Portland-based biotech firm AbSci is moving its headquarters into the former Red Lion Inn at the Quay, which is on the port's 10 acres. Brooks said AbSci signed a two-year lease for 8,000 square feet for labs and offices, with an option for another 2,000 feet.

    The Red Lion closed in October. The structure was built in 1926 as a warehouse and turned into a restaurant in the 1950s. Later it was expanded for the hotel.

    “It's a funky piece of property and dearly loved by the community,” Brooks said.

    She said the port intends to convert the warehouse into a marketplace, with restaurants, shops and vendors, similar to Seattle's Pike Place Market and Pybus Public Market in Wenatchee.

    The port is demolishing some of the hotel rooms, but keeping the restaurant and bar, hotel lobby and event space while it designs the marketplace, which will have some of the historic elements of the warehouse, Brooks said.

    The marketplace won't open for at least three years, she said, so the port is negotiating with a group to operate the restaurant and event space. A coffee shop is already there.

    The port plans to start at least one biotech office building in 2017 next to the former hotel as part of the mixed-use development, she said. It is talking with four companies interested in doing the hotel project.

    Brooks said the complex will be a regional attraction for locals and visitors as well as top-notch biotech firms.

    “It's so unique,” she said. “It's on the waterfront. It's south-facing. There's nothing like it in the region.”

    The port is serious about going after biotech firms in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area, Brooks said. “There's a huge deficit of lab space in this region and in the state.”

    So what about AbSci? Brooks said turning hotel rooms into biotech labs costs a quarter of what it would cost to convert standard office space because the rooms already have plumbing and HVAC.

    The port is temporarily keeping another 16,000 square feet of hotel rooms for biotech office/lab space, and looking for more tenants.

    Vancouver recently improved the connection between the waterfront and downtown by building two roads through railroad berms that had divided the area.

    The port wants to connect green space in its development with seven miles of trail along the water and a 7.3-acre park the city of Vancouver is planning.

    Columbia River Cruises operates from the dock where the Red Lion was. The port wants to attract more river cruises and will build a small visitors center at the dock, Brooks said. There's also a day-use recreational dock adjacent to the hotel dock.


    Lynn Porter can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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