Ridgefield Waterfront draft business plan released


A high-level plan for development at the Ridgefield Waterfront is now available, and members of the public have an opportunity to comment before the port district puts the plan in action.

During its Sept. 13 meeting, the Port of Ridgefield Board of Commissioners heard a presentation by Leland Consulting Group, who was tasked with drafting the Waterfront Business Plan. The next day, the port announced a public comment period for the plan.

The 74-page presentation on the port’s website details the plan, which details the port’s vision for the area and the types of development the 41-acre site will see. The consulting group has worked on the plan for 10 months with regular check-ins with commissioners along the way, Port of Ridgefield CEO Randy Mueller said.

“This is really us figuring out what we want,” Mueller said about the plan.

The consultant’s work is an update on 2008 analysis the port has done for the waterfront. It also incorporates a community survey undertaken last year.

“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t pursuing an outdated concept or vision,” Mueller said.

The largest change from the 2008 project that Mueller sees is the amount of office space speculated. The old plan had a lot more dedicated office space, though with the current market for that type of development, there’s far less demand now than 15 years ago.

Nowadays, more ports are including a residential component within their waterfront development, Mueller said. The Port of Ridgefield’s plan has left the door open for that use, though he said it wasn’t as high a priority as a number of other uses the port would like to see in the area.

Mueller noted that eight of the 41 acres will be designated the Ridgefield Waterfront Park, a public recreation area largely along the bank of Lake River. That park has always been planned for the waterfront development, as public access was not available in the area when it was strictly an industrial zone prior to Pacific Wood Treating closing up shop and the port undertaking a multimillion-dollar environmental cleanup.

The business plan has development divided among three geographic areas determined by Ridgefield’s current building height maximums. The northern stretch of the waterfront, sandwiched between the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and the train tracks, will feature “craft industrial” business, live-work space or so-called “flex” space.

Mueller gave examples of craft industrial use as manufacturers of items like fishing rods or BMX bicycles. Flex space is a similar type of use, usually with a front office and industrial-quality improvements for the building tenants, according to the draft plan.

North Clark County currently has no vacancy on that type of space, the plan states.

“Small square-footage spaces for small businesses are always in demand,” Mueller said.

The central area, bounded by the planned waterfront park and the train tracks, has a greater variety of potential business, including restaurants, lodging, destination retail and health care. The southern area is planned to have a multi-use building, including port offices, to bring operations back to the waterfront, among other improvements, like a community center and parking.

Some types of businesses aren’t under consideration at all, like warehousing and heavy industry, Mueller said. Of those, wood treating, an industry that prompted the environmental cleanup in the first place, is also prohibited.

Though not outright prohibited, general retail, like grocery and auto parts stores, are a low priority for the area.

“Those really came out in the study work as being both not very feasible for this location and also not really desired by the port,” Mueller said.

The business plan recommends proceeding with a “master developer” as opposed to a number of single developers for the waterfront. Mueller said that approach allows for more consistency over the area to give it a cohesive vision in what is offered.

Having a large project can make it more appealing to developers to make their pitch, Mueller said. That can help entice would-be builders given the challenges any development would face plus site constraints including what will come from building on a formerly contaminated site.

The deadline for public comment is Oct. 1. The presentation of the business plan is available for viewing at portridgefield.org/ridgefield-waterfront. An online comment form is available on the page. Comments can be sent by mail to PO Box 55, Ridgefield, WA 98642.

Following the deadline for public comment, the port will begin putting out requests for qualifications and proposals.