By Mary Hopkin, Journal of Business
Commercial construction throughout Benton and Franklin counties was up more than 22 percent in 2008. While commercial construction lagged in Kennewick and West Richland, large projects in Richland and Pasco resulted in impressive year-over-year commercial construction increases in those cities.
Commercial construction in the four cities was valued at more than $168 million in 2008, compared to $137 million the previous year. Battelle’s $43 million Biological and Computational Science Facilities at 3300 Stevens Drive in Richland pumped up the 2008 to $93 million, a 94 percent increase over 2007.
The two buildings, which are attached by a breezeway, encompassed about 150,000 square feet and will replace a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory labs and offices at the south end of the Hanford site. Commercial construction in Pasco was up 38 percent in 2008, propped up by industrial projects, including initial work on the $42 million Syngenta seed processing plant at the Port of Pasco.
“We had 34 industrial projects last year and this year there were 45.” said Dave McDonald, the city planner. Industrial construction in Pasco in 2008 was valued at $22 million, compared to $13.1 million during the same time last years – a 69 percent increase. Not all of the permits for the Syngenta plant have been issued, he noted.
Overall, commercial construction in Pasco during 2008 was valued at $32.2 million, compared to $23.3 million in 2007. In Kennewick, commercial construction had slowed but was still healthy, said Wes Romine, Kennewick’s development services manager.
Infinia Corp., an energy technology company built a $3 million, 30,000-square foot manufacturing building at Vista Field and Tri-Cities Orthopedic built an 18,000 square-foot medical building, also valued at about $3 million, just down the road at 6703 W Rio Grande Avenue.
The major retail development has been happening in the Southridge area of Kennewick however, where Dean Maldonado, the marketing and construction manager for South Ridge Village, 22-acre, mixed-use development in Kennewick. Maldonado has already invested about $4.7 million into infrastructure in the area and his first retail building, valued at about $2.4 million is complete. That’s where his offices are and where the new Anelare winery tasting studio has opened. A tanning salon is also preparing to move into the building as well as a wine shop that will offer locally-produced wines.
Meadow Hills Veterinary Center plans to build a second office in the area and Maldonado is preparing to start a small, three-bay building at South Ridge Village, where a coffee shop and a specialty sandwich shop plans to open. Across Highway 395, Hapo Community Credit Union opened a new branch in December and plans are underway for a new Comfort Suites hotel to be built in the area.
In West Richland, there were 44 commercial construction projects permitted in 2008 valued at nearly $4 million, including the new Kadlec Clinic West Richland Primary Care facility, which will open in February and a convenience store on Bombing Range Road.
Over, the economic roller coaster that defined 2008, the Tri-Cities outpaced many other areas throughout that state in commercial growth. Local city planners and economic development managers said they are pleased with the growth the area had last year and optimistic about the future.
“We’re a little bit slower (than 2007), but we’re still going along at a pretty good clip,” said Ken Nelson, Kennewick’s economic development director. “We had Famous Dave’s and PF Chang’s open and we’ve got the South Ridge development going on, and the Infinia expansion, that will about about 100 employees.”
Nelson said while construction financing is getting harder to obtain, the Tri-Cities economy is being viewed as a safer investment and overall, the area is seeing positive growth during a difficult era. “You only have to look around – five years ago there were vacant big box stores all over town, and now they are full,” he said. “Starbucks closes 600 stores, but none in the Tri-Cities.”