Vancouver gets $12.5 million for waterfront

A state board has decided to give Vancouver $500,000 a year for the next 25 years to encourage the development of a dense community waterfront along the Columbia River.

The money can be used for rail and road improvements to spur redevelopment of the former Boise Cascade paper mill. Investors are planning to spend more than $1 billion to build 2,700 condominiums and apartments, plus stores, restaurants, offices, two hotels, and 10 acres of park and open space.

Eventually, the city is expected to pay back the money from tax revenue generated by the development.

Vancouver's project scored highest among nine projects statewide vying for funding from the Washington Community Economic Revitalization Board as it met in SeaTac this week. The board also approved projects in Mount Vernon, Yakima and Whitman County.

Eric Holmes, Vancouver economic development director, said he believes the city's project scored well in part because it involves redevelopment of a stretch of Columbia River waterfront, what he called "the south gateway to the state of Washington."

The city needs an estimated $38.6 million for transportation improvements to accommodate the project, namely rebuilding a railroad berm that separates the waterfront from downtown and extending two streets to the former Boise Cascade site. The development is being planned by Gramor Development of Tualatin, Ore.

With the money awarded this week, the city has only $4 million left to raise, Holmes said - assuming Vancouver gets the $7 million it wants from the federal government and a $5 million direct appropriation from the Legislature.

Earlier this year, the Legislature agreed to provide an initial $910,000. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is trying to include $3 million for the project in the 2009 federal budget.

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