My most recent article in the Vancouver Business Journal
Drive north along I-5 and just beyond Exit 7, you enter a stretch of highway where cranes and concrete dominate the skyline. You’re seeing the Fourth stage of the seventeen year one hundred thirty three million dollar Salmon Creek Interchange Project which is the primary spark to ignite a fuse that literally changes the face of ClarkCounty.
The population in Salmon Creek increased rapidly in the 1990’s with housing, retail, office space, a hospital, and a college campus replacing what used to be farms and open space. Today, NE 134th Street is used by all local east-west traffic to cross I-5 and I-205, and provides access to both freeways from the Salmon Creek area. The close proximity of traffic signals on NE 134th Street and high traffic volumes in the area created gridlock, traffic back-ups, and a high rate of automobile accidents. It was such a mess that ClarkCounty had a moratorium on development in the surrounding area for many years.
Clearly that has changed. Companies with vision have already staked their claim, or are in process. Scheduled for completion in less than one year, Spring 2014, the initial impacts may be to reduce the East – West traffic on 134th by as much as thirty per cent. The walls have risen on medical clinic announced by RSV Building Solutions last fall that includes Creek Side Medical and Cascadia Women’s Clinic. They gaze upon the massive girders that make up 139th streets final missing section sitting just to the East.
Community Home Health Services continues in the permitting process to develop their parcel along 134th, and 29th Avenue. Manor Care invested ten million dollars into a state of the art senior care center at the very western end of 139th Street to take advantage of the proximity with Legacy.
The Foster family out of Anacortes purchased the University Building, adjacent to Kaiser Permanente on NE 20th last fall in anticipation of increasing demand for office space. Activity in the office arena has been brisk this spring. Startup companies Interject Data Systems and Creative Performance have located in the Northern Star medical complex, and Life Style Medical Services recently secured space two blocks West of Legacy.
The second spark is the Discovery Clean Water Alliance and the improvements that have occurred at the Ridgefield Junction. The DCWA is an eight year effort, bringing to reality a fifty year vision on how to solve the sewer puzzle in NorthCounty, and unlocks the vast potential of open flat parcels that exist around the Ridgefield Junction. A recent feasibility study indicated this strategic investment could make it possible to site multiple employment centers in NorthClarkCounty, potentially creating thousands of jobs. Having such sites available is a critical element in the Economic Development Strategic plan put in place by the CREDC in 2011.
The Ridgefield Junction experienced its own multi phase interchange upgrades over the past five years. With over twenty nine million dollars invested, improving the overpass, expanding traffic lanes and building roundabouts to provide convenient access, the groundwork for growth has been laid.
Clark Regional WasteWater and the DCWA partners are moving steadily forward and anticipate having each piece in place by 2016 at a cost of around twenty five million dollars. PeaceHealth SouthWest continues to refine plans for their property. ClarkCollege has been highly visible in their efforts at locating somewhere in NorthCounty and most bets are that will be Ridgefield.
Third there will have been over fifty million spent on the Battleground Interchange, and the widening of SR 502 into the cities core. ClarkCounty, has plans on the board to extend NE 10th Avenue North, to the Fairgrounds area starting in 2017. Price tag thirty two million dollars. ClarkCounty views this as a natural extension of the Salmon Creek Interchange Project, tying the economic drivers of both interchanges together.
With our two decades of work we will have created a vibrant seven mile long economic hub anchored by LegacyHospital and WSUV on the South – the Fairgrounds/Events Center / Amphitheater Complex at the 179th Street interchange, and Peace Health and Clark College at exit 14 to the North. It will include multiple North-South connecting arterials flanking I-5, much of which is already zoned light industrial with users waiting simply for the County to remove an Urban Hold zone.
The investment in the region for these multiple projects will finalize at just over a quarter of a billion dollars. The projects have been envisioned and managed through multiple agencies and partnerships. While I am certain we’ll see continued growth on the East side, the real dramatic changes are going to happen in the North.