CL port plans downtown, sports center projects

CASCADE LOCKS — As innovative as The Puff Factory would be (article, A1) two other development proposals by the Port of Cascade Locks are even closer to reality, according to Gary Rains, the Port’s economic development director.

They are Cascade Commercial Center, on WaNaPa, and an outdoor sports center on the knob-shaped piece of land east of the city, bounded by the Columbia River, Herman Creek and Government Island cove. It would feature a marina, camping area, trails, and a pavilion, all located within a few hundred yards of the proposed Puff Factory location.

The Port owns property along WaNaPa Avenue in downtown Cascade Locks, between the Best Western Columbia River Inn and the old fire hall building. Two parcels are now home to businesses that are nearly constructed and due to open in the near future: Brigham Fish Market and Java Joe’s.

Rains said he has developed two alternatives, 7,000 and 9,000 square feet respectively, for two retail tenants and three apartments and for three retail tenants and five residences, on two more parcels.

“We’ve been working with investors off and on who wanted a portion, but didn’t have enough for all of it, and we’re just waiting to get over the hump,” Rains said. “I am hopeful that next week, we’re close (to concluding a deal) and hopefully we’ll build it next year.”

The sports center “is all about timing and opportunity,” he said. The port will probably build the center and keep ownership of all or most of the property, and the investor, the owner of an out-of-state sports adventure business who is in process of selling, would be concessionaire and operate the facility.

“I’m really hopeful we’ll (build) this spring,” Rains said.

“This is a lot of land, and he doesn’t have enough money to build, and we don’t want to sell it,” Rains said. The investor “is waiting for his business to sell and he has another significant investor that would bring in a significant business name.” The port would “help him build and sell him the service.”

The port owns the land as well as the adjacent waterways. “If anyone can make this happen it’s the Port,” said Rains, noting that he developed the concept based on a similar plan by the Port from 10 years ago.

“We want to keep enough land and still use it for recreation and sports. It’s a huge win — there is nothing like this (property) anywhere in the Gorge, with water on three sides, including deep water,” he said. There is potential for deep-keel sailboats to moor on the east, while on the west the Herman Creek cove provides quiet water for kayaking. Upland the center will have limited structures other than a pavilion and the space set aside for vendors and support businesses such as kayak rentals and bicycle repair. The area is already a recreational attraction thanks to Blackberry Beach and the EasyClimb mountain biking course.

The plan is to develop it in phases, and change the zones to mixed-use. It is currently zoned in four ways: high-density residential on the east, resort commercial on the west, light industrial on the south, and public (Blackberry Beach).

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