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The Dalles sees payoff in a decade of steady effort

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Articles - September 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

 

0911_TheDalles
Lone Pine Village in The Dalles is one of several projects that has helped advance the redevelopment goals of the city.
“I don’t know if there is a middle ground between a completely blue-collar town and a completely white-collar town,” says Robert Gilham, CEO of Lone Pine Village, a mixed-use residential community in The Dalles. But if such a category exists, Gilham says, “The Dalles is that middle ground.”

After about a decade of slow but steady growth, The Dalles continues to pursue a balanced model of development: gentrifying the area’s downtown with wine bars, cafés and streetscape improvements while also preserving industrial land necessary to attract employment. About $560 million of development is currently under way, including a Pioneer Square-style public plaza, completion of the 10-mile Dalles Riverfront Trail, expansion of the Sunshine Mill Winery Building and construction of a new commercial marina boat dock.

A developer has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the city to redevelop the vacant downtown Granada Theater. The goal, says Dan Durow, the Dalles’ community development director, is to build a “higher-end hotel” — along the lines of a Hilton Garden, he says — adjacent to a restaurant and conference facility.

Durow said the city’s urban renewal district, created in 2000, “has made a real difference” in city redevelopment. Along with state and federal grants, renewal dollars paid for several streetscape and parks initiatives, including a new skate park completed last year. The renewal district doesn’t expire until 2025, and once the latest round of projects is completed, Durow says the effects “will be even more amazing.”

About that balance. Over the past few years, several amenity projects have sprung up in The Dalles, most notably the $15 million Water’s Edge Health and Wellness Center, which is operated by the Mid-Columbia Medical Center and is the first commercial tenant to locate in Lone Pine Village. A LEED gold-rated building, the Water’s Edge also features a bistro and spa. Still to come is the Sunshine Mill expansion, including a remodel that will create loft space for local artists.

Industrial development is also a priority. Aiming to replicate its success with Google, which set up a server farm here in 2006, the city has created 120 acres of “shovel ready” land on the former site of the Northwest Aluminum Plant. “We’re trying to find a new soldier for that campaign,” says David Griffith, a port commissioner and auto dealer involved in his own real estate project: construction of a new 38,000-square-foot Toyota and Honda dealership, with an adjoining Griffey’s Quick Lube.

Not everything in The Dalles is moving forward as planned. Gilham says the housing market “madness” has stalled Lone Pine residential sales, and he is now converting some of the land dedicated to for-sale housing to a 48-unit apartment building. But even a sluggish, unpredictable economy can’t erode years of carefully planned city development, says Gilham. “The cogs have been turning slowly, and all of that is now coming to a climax.”

Linda Baker

 

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