Vista Field is a 103-acre former municipal airport in Kennewick, Washington that ceased operations in December, 2013. The redevelopment of this centrally located site represents an extraordinary strategic opportunity for the Port of Kennewick, and for the entire Tri-Cities region. DPZ was engaged by the Port of Kennewick to prepare a framework master plan for redevelopment of the airfield, including infrastructure, program, design elements, and other ingredients of the final buildout.
Local residents expressed a desire for more choices within the Tri-Cities: for more walkable, mixed, lively districts, following the concepts of New Urbanism and other recent trends in planning. There is a growing market demand for this kind of development, but very little that is available within the Tri-Cities. The greater The Tri-Cities, could become more competitive by offering more distinctive shopping and dining experiences, by offering more cultural amenities, and by creating more of a gathering place for after-work activities – a “there there.” Vista Field offers the unique opportunity to bring all three elements together into one exciting new district – to tie together existing fragmented regional amenities and, working together with other partners, create a new “heart of the Tri-Cities.
In detail, the proposed framework plan establishes a block structure generated from the key axes of connectivity to the surrounding urban fabric, and it generates a much smaller block size. The main axis of the site features a main street and a parallel secondary “picturesque” pedestrian street. These two very different streets weave around one another over the length of the site. Also parallel to those two streets are utility alleys. A retail node and square anchor the southwestern corner, a performing arts complex and plaza anchor the north-eastern corner, and an entertainment/restaurant/retail street with a central green connects the heart of Vista Field to the city's civic complex to the north.
The Vista Field plan has a heavy focus on implementation, and in particular, on a feasible, pay-as-you-go, low-debt approach. The Port of Kennewick heard loudly and clearly from its stakeholders that a high-debt, high-capital development approach is not what is expected for Vista Field. In addition, the cost of real estate in the Tri-Cities is comparatively low, which presents a competitive challenge for Vista Field. Every dollar saved on unnecessary development cost is a dollar that can be used to make Vista Field more competitive, more attractive, and ultimately more valuable to the people of the Tri-Cities.
Here are several promising strategies for lowering cost and raising quality:
- Take a phased, coordinated, build-as-you-go approach to infrastructure. Do not build large quantities of expensive infrastructure whose finance costs add to the cost burden of the project. On the other hand, make sure that infrastructure is built out in a coordinated, efficient way, so that total cost does not exceed the cost of a large-scale buildout.
- Re-use the runways, their grades and subgrades as much as possible. Runway demolition would be a significant initial project cost, on top of new grading and construction of streets, which would be doubly inefficient. The plan takes advantage of the existing runway pattern while also generating an efficient centralized utility plan.
- Consider placing some utility lines overhead. This is a radical idea, but the argument for it is persuasive (see page 58). In alleys, electric and data lines can be located in an innovative carriageway system which is distinctive, easily maintained, screened from view, and sheltered from tree damage during storms.