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From rock quarry to rock-star development

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Big machinery scurrying about was no strange sight on the 84 acres surrounding the intersection of Brady Rd. and 192nd Avenue – after all, the area has been a rock quarry for more than 135 years. Tons and tons of rock from the view COLUMBIA PALISADES site have made their way in various forms into countless projects around the county and beyond – including huge boulders (some weighing more than 30 tons each) that are now part of the Columbia River jetty and the Grays Harbor jetty. But with a new breed of machinery working the site, to transform it from a rock quarry to a visionary mixed-use project called COLUMBIA PALISADES, which serves as the eastern gateway to Vancouver.

According to Ed Freeman, Vice President of COLUMBIA PALISADES Corp., the project features 84.2 acres of luxury view single-family residences, lots and townhomes, retail and restaurants, office space, multi-family housing, and possibly a hotel, with stunning views of the Columbia River. The project incorporates approximately 24 acres of open space and a trail that wraps around the sloped area.

Freeman said that COLUMBIA PALISADES’ ambiance will be a “lifestyle center” similar to Bridgeport Village in Tigard or the Pearl District in Portland (but with shorter buildings, limited to five or six stories).

Chad Eiken, director of community and economic development for the City of Vancouver, said that COLUMBIA PALISADES is a “new benchmark” in terms of mixed-use developments, and that it will be a “great addition to the 192nd corridor.”

Vancouver’s Planning Division states that COLUMBIA PALISADES is in conformance with the Riverview Gateway subarea plan adopted in February 2009.

Tapani Inc. performed the grading and site work, which was completed in November 2018. Freeman put the land acquisition and site work at “more than $35 million,” but added that they have saved significantly by crushing about 100,000 cubic yards of their own rock from the quarry site. Onsite utilities, streets, sidewalks and landscaping are now completed.

“The round-about keeps traffic flowing on Brady Road,” stated Don Hanson, principal at Otak Inc., who has been working on the COLUMBIA PALISADES project since its inception 12 years ago. “It’s pretty exciting to see COLUMBIA PALISADES come to fruition.”

Hanson said that it has been an “interesting project,” where the “constraints became opportunities.” Being involved in the reclamation of the site enabled Otak to do pre-grading and to oversee the quality of the slopes and compaction.

“The challenge is in the topography – there is a 180-foot elevation change from the bottom to the top of the site,” said Hanson. “That really drove a lot of the configuration of our plan.”

He added that both the City of Vancouver and the Department of Natural Resources (which oversees the mining activity) have been great partners.

“It’s an excellent example of a private-public partnership,” stated Hanson.

With the site work Completed, Freeman can turn his attention to marketing – but already a wide variety of businesses have expressed interest, including hotel, medical, dental, mixed-use retail developers, and more. He anticipates the first office building to start construction next year, as well as some residential construction.

COLUMBIA PALISADES has challenged us to do our best work,” said Hanson.

“We’re really confident in the location – we will build it and they will come,” added Freeman.

Quarrying has a rock-solid history in Clark County

Fisher’s Quarry started operations in the early 1880s and encompassed more than 180 acres along Highway 14. Located in basalt flows which erupted from a vent located on the slope of Prune Hill, a Boring Lava cone, the quarry produced rock products for projects including the streets of Portland and coastal jetties. Smith Brothers Contracting purchased Fishers Quarry in 1943, and the Umpqua Navigation Company bought the quarry about 1967. In 1984, Umpqua split the quarry, selling the portion east of 192nd Avenue to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the western portion to Peter Kiewit and Pacific Rock Products. Kiewit became the sole owner of the western portion in 1999; in 2002, Rinker Materials purchased that portion (Rinker was later acquired by CEMEX).

COLUMBIA PALISADES Corp., an affiliate of Weston Investment Co. LLC, acquired the eastern quarry from WSDOT around 2002, and CEMEX continued to mine it for the next nine years, after which began the reclamation of the site to prepare it for the transformation from an active quarry to an unparalleled view site known as COLUMBIA PALISADES that will welcome people each day to the eastern edge of Vancouver City.