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Vancouver Planning For Future Of Mill Property

Vancouver is in the middle  of an ambitious plan to change what used to be a Boise Cascade timber mill into a high-rise waterfront community.

The development is expected to cost over a billion dollars.  Groundwork is underway to improve rail service through the city and ease noise pollution. But the real work  is still years away.

As Andrew Theen reports, city leaders showed their progress to Washington Senator Patty Murray Tuesday.

VancouverSenator Patty Murray took in the scene from a vacant floor at the Columbian Newspaper's downtown building.  The 32 acre site is west of the Interstate Bridge, and south of a stretch of the Burlington Northern Sante Fe line.

Royce Pollard: "When this is fully built we'll have a population during the day in this area of about 10,000 people.  So we're going to create another little city right here."

That's Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, who's fond saying he's "Mayor of America's Vancouver."  Pollard and city staffer Eric Holmes  say the project will boost economic development throughout the state's fourth largest city, and add almost $150 million to the state's coffers. 

Holmes showed mock-ups and presented a virtual tour of what the 20 square block development might look in a decade.

Eric Holmes: "The kind of changes that we're going to see over the next decade and a half will dwarf anything  we've seen in the last decade and a half for certain."

Those changes already factor in a replacement of the congested Interstate bridge.  In fact, the models even included a new bridge, a flat concrete slab similar to the Interstate 205 bridge. 

The development plan calls for 10 acres of waterfront set aside exclusively for park-space.  Think Portland's McCall Waterfront park. 

David Copenhaver: "People are dying to have waterfront development here, you know to reconnect to that water.  So it's been widely accepted, more so than we thought it would be."

David Copenhaver is VP of Development for the project leader Tualatin based Gramor Developers.  Copenhaver said in 10 years the waterfront will be transformed to hold 2700 condos, 800,000 square feet of office space, and possibly a streetcar as well.

Senator Patty Murray said transitioning waterfront away away from industry is becoming commonplace.

Patty Murray: "A lot of communities around the country now are changing from an industrial use of their waters into a more residential, business type economic development.  And I've seen tremendous results from that."

Murray pledged to fight to bring federal funds, but she conceded times are tight.

Vancouver's downtown  development already feels on its way.  Just a few blocks from the proposed site, the popular Esther Short park feels a little like Portland's Pearl District, but with more trees.  Vancouver resident Candin Randall says she supports development if the price is right.

Candin Randall: "It depends on what costs it brings to us and everything.  But I think as long as it makes this part of town nicer I'm all for it.  Depending on all the little details."

Planning all those little details is underway.  Project developers start their permitting process in a year.

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