Wineries show interest in Kennewick’s unbuilt urban wine center

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Wine lovers will have an extra reason to anticipate the 2017 fall crush: Kennewick should have two new tasting rooms by then.

The Port of Kennewick’s Columbia Gardens Urban Wine Village project is little more than excavators, dirt and pipe at the moment, but come spring, the site between East Columbia Drive and Duffy’s Pond will sport two new tasting rooms and support facilities.

Washington’s wine industry is showing interest in the project at 421 E. Columbia Drive, west of the cable bridge.

The port opened applications from prospective tenants Thursday. It can’t identify them during negotiations, but it indicated that it is optimistic it will have operating tasting rooms by the time the 2017 crush rolls around.

Operators from Seattle, Woodinville, Prosser, Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities want to lease the two 3,500-square-foot tasting room spots.

“We had a lot of broad interest from across the state,” said Tana Bader Inglima, the port’s deputy director.

A committee will review applications and visit with the tasting room candidates in coming weeks. It will recommend finalists to the elected board of commissioners, likely by fall.

Word that tenants are indeed interest in the as-yet unbuilt project is one of two major developments this week for the $3 million economic development project.

Earlier in the week, the city of Kennewick identified a contractor to spruce up the street with sidewalks, lights and landscaping. The streetscape project is one of its contributions to the effort. The city is also installing an effluent treatment center to handle wine waste.

The project is designed to turn the six-acre spot into a wine village to inspire more private redevelopment along the industrial stretch sandwiched between the road and the river.

The port took the unusual step of soliciting applications from prospective tenants even before it has a contractor on board to construct the actual buildings. The base annual rent is $27,300, plus lease-related taxes. Bader Inglima said it sought tenants before vertical construction starts to ensure the buildings are populated as quickly as possible.

The three-building project is being constructed in three stages.

The first began May 9 when Big D’s Construction began preparing the site. It has cleared the property and is excavating contaminated soil and installing power, gas and other utilities. The Benton Public Utility District took advantage of the work to bury some of its overhead power transmission lines, removing visual blight from the area.

When Big D’s wraps up in September, the city’s streetscape contractor will move in. 2F Enterprises of Kennewick was the low bidder at $320,360 for the sidewalk and other work, which was slightly less than the city’s estimate of $323,396. The contract is on the consent agenda for the Kennewick City Council’s Aug. 16 meeting.

In the interim, the port is preparing to advertise for bids to construct the two tasting rooms and a building that will serve as a storage center for cases and barrels. After an earlier round of bids came in over budget, the port’s architect, Terence Thornhill, revised the design to cut costs.

The port will advertise for bids on Aug. 29 and will open them Sept. 22. The port commission is slated to award the construction contract on Sept. 27, with work beginning immediately.

By Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell
Wendy Culverwell
Tri City Herald
Image courtesy Port of Kennewick