Yakima County Development Association - City-County Cooperation Triggers Progress at Former Mill Site

Jonathan Smith

The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news. 



City-County Cooperation Triggers Progress at Former Mill Site

June 30, 2011

Our organization has been part of the team working to redevelop the old Boise Cascade mill site. Recently we have been encouraged by discussions between Yakima County and the City of Yakima that are focused on how the two jurisdictions can cooperatively tackle the immense planning and development tasks that underpin future development at the site.

Each jurisdiction has been interested in aspects of the redevelopment project. The City obviously wants to see the area take hold as a new center of commerce. The County's interests have centered on the site as a thoroughfare for their proposed East-West arterial corridor from Terrace Heights to West Yakima. When we first started meeting with the City and the County, the interstate freeway seemed to separate their interests. The County initially wanted to focus on how to build a road from Terrace Heights to the freeway. The City wanted to stay within its boundaries which lie west or the interstate.

Thanks to both jurisdictions' commitment to communicate and plan together, a new more holistic view of the site has emerged that is helping give the entire redevelopment effort significant traction. Instead of working on their respective sides of Interstate 82, the City and County are now collaborating to get key projects going based on who has the expertise and energy to best move pieces of the redevelopment forward. As an example, the County is now offering to take the lead on planning and designing the East West Corridor all the way to 1st Street. This makes sense as the County has a lot more experience developing roads and arterials. It also allows the City to focus on other key elements of the redevelopment initiative.

To formalize this cooperation the City and County will likely develop an interlocal agreement that spells out how each jurisdiction will work on facets of the overall project. This is a natural step that is the outcome of people looking for ways to work together and get a big job done.

Redeveloping the mill site is an immense project. We need to measure this project's progress over months and years as opposed to hoping everything happens next week. It's an exciting time now though as a lot of tangible work at the site will visibly unfold over the next 12-18 months. The City is poised to hire an engineering and consulting team to design roads and utilities that serve the site. The County also has its team starting on design and engineering work. These important activities will give way to multimillion dollar public investments in roads and infrastructure that are absolutely essential to future development at the site.

I realize for many people it seems like little is happening at the mill site. This perception should change as the redevelopment activities start unfolding. Our hats are off to both the City and County. Through cooperation they are speeding the redevelopment process up and overcoming barriers they would have faced if they had tackled their priorities independently.

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