Friday, June 12, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

-John McDonagh can be reached at


Admittedly, the gray hair I have is on my chin instead of the top of my head but gray nonetheless. But enough about aging and onto the perspective it provides, especially when it comes to development. Having lived here and been a part of the business community for the past 34 years, give or take a few, I have the historic advantage of looking at the community through the lens of having heard the vision first and been around to see whether the vision was delivered.

The amenities in this community haven’t always just been here and it’s important to remember, as we consider more than a few projects that are still in the visionary stage, not only what it takes to have a vision but what it takes to hold to it, deliver it and the impacts it will have on the community for years to come.

It was 1983 when the first Washington State University courses were offered at the Southwest Washington Joint Center for Education, then housed in Hudson’s Bay High School. In 1989, it moved to Bauer Hall on the Clark College Campus and was officially designated a branch campus. In 1994, the university broke ground at the current campus location, which now offers a full curriculum for four year college degrees. Nearly three decades of vision commitment and follow through culminated in a graduation class this year 20 times larger than the first graduates of the Vancouver branch campus in 1989.

Other projects that were presented as visions within the last three decades include the Esther Short Park redevelopment, Clark County Amphitheater, Cascade Park, Columbia Tech Center, Battle Ground Village, Vancouvercenter and Heritage Place, the Vancouver waterfront development from I-5 east to Columbia Business Center, Vancouver Mall and county-wide transit via C-Tran.

There are likely a dozen more examples, though I think these will do nicely enough to put some of the current visions into perspective. Plans are moving:
• The Columbia Waterfront LLC has this week submitted the specific vision to the city for consideration of how the 35 acres will be redeveloped in the next 10 years
• The Columbia River Crossing task force was several years in the visioning process, culminating in its recent recommendation to the governments involved about the crossing should entail
• Washougal developed a vision for its downtown and for reconnecting it to the waterfront. On June 22, a major component gets underway with the ground breaking of the pedestrian tunnel under state Route 14.

Each of our local communities is in one phase of the vision-to-reality continuum. As members of the community, it is our responsibility to understand the vision, engage actively in the debate about the best vision for our community and make those visions become real for our future generations.