The economy is improving in Southwest Washington.
And this is creating opportunities to create jobs through new real estate development. Many of the issues that impacted development both positively and negatively prior to the recession remain. This article will address some of the key factors that will help and hinder job creation through real estate development.
The availability of shovel ready land for industrial development remains a major issue. Shovel ready means land that is served with the necessary infrastructure to make it available for development today. The Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) has completed a detailed inventory of available land that identifies where our current supply of industrial land is. This report identifies too few properties that are served with sewer and transportation infrastructure to support development at a level that will allow our children to find jobs in our community.
The supply of land for commercial development is less restricted. Battleground, Camas and Ridgefield all have land available for commercial, retail and mixed-use development. The ports of Camas-Washougal and Ridgefield are each planning for waterfront mixed-use developments that are likely to significantly enhance job opportunities and the quality of life in those communities. Vancouver is currently funding infrastructure for a waterfront mixed-use project that will become the gateway to Vancouver.
Our community will soon address land availability for development in future updates to our various jurisdictions’ growth management plans. Washington’s Growth Management Act requires that these plans be updated by 2016. Clark County plays a lead role in growth management planning and has completed a memorandum setting the stage for this planning effort. The inventory of vacant lands referenced in this memorandum significantly overstates the availability of both commercial and industrial land because it does not identify “shovel ready” parcels. Clark County and its cities would do well to coordinate its planning effort with the inventory and policy work recently completed by the CREDC.
Transportation and sewer availability is at the forefront of the infrastructure issues that affect the ability to develop real estate, and there is good news regarding upcoming sewer availability.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Clark Regional Wastewater District working with Battle Ground and Ridgefield, construction of a major sewer trunk line from the Ridgefield Junction to the Salmon Creek Treatment Plant will begin in 2014. This line is fully-funded and will ensure the availability of sewer to much of north Clark County. Vancouver has plenty of long-term sewer capacity and the other small cities have programs in the works to insure sewer availability for development.
Transportation is perhaps the most significant obstacle that must be overcome to provide for significant new industrial and commercial development. It has been several years since Southwest Washington received money for new road projects. As Clark County and its cities look towards creating additional inventory of commercial and industrial land, they will need to be sure that new projects in these expanded areas can meet transportation concurrency, capacity and safety standards.
The Washington legislature will consider a $12 billion transportation package to be funded by an increased gas tax in 2014. To date, only $41 million of that package is allocated to Clark County. We have much to do to increase our share. The business community has developed a priority transportation project list, and all projects on that list are important. Those that will likely provide the most opportunity for job creating development projects include:
- Ridgefield Pioneer Street Rail Overpass;
- Clark County Interstate 5/179th Street Interchange; and
- Clark County NE 10th Avenue from 149th to 164th St./Whipple Creek project.
Our community is again ready to grow.
Let’s do the hard work necessary to ensure that we have “shovel ready” land available for development. This is how we will create jobs and ensure a bright future in Southwest Washington for future generations.