Friday, September 10, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

On the waterfront

“This is not South Waterfront.”

That’s Barry Cain, president of Gramor Development, Inc., referring to the planned $1 billion-plus Vancouver Columbia Waterfront Development in 2008.

More than two years later, the effort which will clear the way for this enormous development, the Waterfront Access Project, broke ground this week in a ceremony which included local, state and federal elected officials.

The beginning of riverfront access work was certainly a win for downtown Vancouver – long separated from one of the region’s natural treasures by BNSF tracks and inaccessible industrial land.

However, it also raises questions about the development planned to follow the completion of the project. Approved by the Vancouver City Council last year, Gramor is set to develop 32 acres of the former Boise Cascade waterfront property into a set of mixed-use towers, walkways and storefronts.

The plans are a stunning vision for a bustling waterfront district – finally integrating Vancouver with a river the city has turned its back on for nearly a century.

“This property will once again become a center of economic activity,” Cain told The Columbian at Wednesday’s groundbreaking for the Waterfront Access Project, projecting that work on the mixed-use development could follow as early as 2013.

The project would dump an estimated 1.2 million square feet of office space and 400,000 square feet of retail space on a market some real estate experts say will be dogged by excess inventory for years to come.

Meanwhile, this week downtown Vancouver bakery Je ’Taime closed after being open less than a year, the commercial office vacancy rate in Clark County held steady at close to 19 percent and realtors offered one-bedroom condos in South Waterfront’s John Ross building in pre-foreclosure for $150,000.

“This is an excruciatingly short sale,” the listing read.