By Jack Stubbs
“We’re reinvesting in the waterfront, which is what these communities expect to occur. We saw it happen a couple of decades ago in Tacoma, we’re seeing it happen now in Seattle and it has also happened in some of the cities on the western side of the Puget Sound region,” said Mike Schiller, director of business development for the Port of Vancouver USA of a new project set to shape the waterfront in Vancouver, Washington.
The Port of Vancouver is working with Graham Baba Architects to redevelop Terminal 1 on Vancouver’s waterfront to transform the historic Terminal 1 building into a 40,000 square foot public marketplace. “One of the real benefits of partnering with Graham Baba is their experience with public marketplaces; they’ve been able to help guide that conversation and inspire our thinking about what a public marketplace should look like,” Schiller added.
Graham Baba is currently at work on the Phase 1 study, conceptual design and planning study for the Terminal 1 Market building as part of a process that began in January 2018. The study is expected to be completed by early September 2018, at which point will the firm will present the conceptual design to members of the public and await feedback from the Port of Vancouver, according to Susan Tillack, architect at Graham Baba. “We anticipate completing [design] by early September, after which we will issue a report to the Port of Vancouver that outlines the full process of how the decisions were made to get to that conceptual design,” she said. “In the meantime, the Dock has been under redesign. It was priced at the 30 percent design milestone and is slated to be replaced,” she added. Once the Port has reviewed Graham Baba’s conceptual design, it will seek further funding efforts which will determine future phases for the project.
The anticipated start date for construction on the Terminal 1 project is unclear.
In addition to Graham Baba Architects, the consultant team for the first phase of Terminal 1 includes KPFF (structural engineering), Interface (MEP and Sustainability Consulting), ARUP (acoustical consulting), Berger ABAM (permit consulting) and RLB (cost consulting). Greenworks is contracted separately for landscape architecture consulting.
The Terminal 1 Market building is the Port of Vancouver’s original marine terminal and sits on the Columbia River near downtown Vancouver. Ultimately, the new market will include market stalls for locally-sourced produce and gifts, restaurant spaces, craft breweries and day-table and booth opportunities.
Terminal 1 has a long-standing history on the city of Vancouver and was originally developed in the 1920s as a partnership between the Port of Vancouver USA and the city of Vancouver to provide waterfront warehouse facilities—as such, one of the primary objectives with the project is to create a project that connects the surrounding community to the city’s history, according to Abbi Russell, communications manager with the Port of Vancouver. “The project will be [about] connecting our community to its heritage. Vancouver is a very old city and one of the oldest incorporated communities in Washington State; for a long time, a lot of what occurred here was around trade at the port on the Columbia River, so there’s a great deal of heritage there in general,” she said. As part of the redevelopment project, a visual history of about the Port and the Vancouver waterfront will be included in the Terminal 1 market building.
From a practical standpoint, the design team will look to incorporate and repurpose some of the historic features of the old warehouse into the new building. “With the historic building, it was determined that stripping down the building’s non-historic elements and reusing the existing building probably wouldn’t make economic sense, in part because a new freeway is being planned to cross the river right over the existing building’s location…and the existing structure would need to be dismantled in order to be moved. Instead, we’re going to reuse existing timbers within the building to create the structure of the new building,” Tillack said.
In terms of overarching objectives with the Terminal 1 project, one of the broader considerations was how to help the project contribute to other changes occurring on Vancouver’s waterfront, according to Jonathan Eder, director of human resources and Terminal 1 project manager with the Port of Vancouver. “What we’re hoping for is a magnet where the public to come down and enjoy the [Columbia River], where people from Vancouver or people from anywhere else in the region or tourists can come down and explore that area and its close connection with downtown Vancouver. There are a lot of really good stories to be told down there,” Eder said.
The revamping of Terminal 1 is part of a larger, multi-phased transformation of Vancouver’s waterfront. According to Eder, one of the primary challenges with the Terminal 1 project was how to navigate around the other stakeholders involved in the efforts to redevelop the waterfront. “As part of the project area—what we are calling Terminal 1 and the waterfront project—there are really three key stakeholders in that project: the Port of Vancouver is working on around 10 acres, to the West of us there’s another 33 acres that are being developed by Columbia Waterfront LLC, and then [there are] 7 acres of city park for which the city of Vancouver is the third stakeholder,” he said.
Columbia Waterfront LLC, a private investors group led by Gramor Development, worked closely with the city, Port of Vancouver and local residents to create a master-planned development to reconnect 35 acres along the Columbia River to the city’s historic core, according to the city of Vancouver’s web site. The project includes a maximum of 3,300 residential units, approximately 1 million square feet of office space, and retail space for restaurants, speciality shops and services.
Columbia Waterfront LLC allocated the 7-acre park land to the city to help reconnect residents to the Columbia River, and also committed to provide initial park improvements including the five-mile Waterfront Renaissance Trail, which runs adjacent to the site of the Terminal 1 market redevelopment and will ultimately connect Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver with Winter Community Park.
Subsequently, one of the hurdles associated with the Terminal 1 redevelopment was how to create a project that both confirmed to changes occurring on the waterfront and stood out in its own right, according to Eder. “Each of the different stakeholders on the waterfront has the ability to create something different, but it really should blend as well as be unique. We are looking what our development partners are doing to the West and want to do something that complements but doesn’t necessarily compete with that,” he said.
In the broader regional context, Terminal 1’s location in Vancouver—which sits on the southernmost edge of the state of Washington and on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon—meant that particular care was given to how it would be perceived by those coming into the state, according to Tillack. “We see it as the front porch of the city of Vancouver and the state of Washington. It will be a kind of beacon for people coming into the state and is envisioned as a market that will be welcoming to everyone entering the state of Washington,” she said. “When they are done right, markets of this kind can really have a huge impact on the economic development of a community,” she added.
Throughout the collaboration process with Graham Baba on the potential design of the Terminal 1 project, the Port of Vancouver took cues from existing public markets and revitalization projects throughout the region including Pybus Public Market in Wenatchee (which was also designed by Graham Baba), Pike Place Market in Seattle and Point Ruston in Tacoma. “We did a lot of research on public markets in general, as well as some of the other downtown revitalization projects that are happening,” Schiller said. “We’ve been able to look elsewhere on a more national level, as well, at some other public spaces and public markets.”
The changes occurring along the Columbia River in Vancouver are part of a longer-term evolution of the city of Vancouver that has been occurring for the last couple of decades, according to Schiller. “It’s been a city transitioning over the last 20 years, and the city of Vancouver now stands on its own and not simply as a bedroom community serving the Portland metropolitan area,” he said. “There’s a lot of historical significance on this side of the Columbia River in Southwest Washington; the city itself has really grown and there’s been a lot of investment in the waterfront, which is just a natural extension of that.”
And while changes are underway at the regional and local level—especially along the Columbia River—the increased development occurring throughout the Puget Sound region means that even greater consideration should be given to adaptively reusing the historic buildings that do still exist, according to Tillack. “These days you can’t build with the same quality materials that many of these buildings were constructed with hundreds of years ago…these old timbers are what really give these buildings a sense of place and connection to the local region’s history,” she said.
The Terminal 1 building is ultimately intended to be a modern interpretation of the original historic structure, according to Tillack. “We do a lot of adaptive reuse in part because our firm values the historic character of these buildings so highly. I think we’re all a little bit appalled at how much of the historic fabric [of these cities] gets lost; Seattle has lost a lot and I’m assuming the region around Portland probably has similar issues.”