Port of Hood River to focus on 2013 strategic planning

With a busy 2012 just about in the books, the Port of Hood River is ramping up for 2013, a year which figures to be equally as busy — just in a different way.

The port held its fall planning session earlier this week to go over goals and objectives for the coming year.

The planning session was put off for several months, mainly because the port was so preoccupied in dealing with such a full plate, particularly deciding whether not to enter negotiations for a cable park in the former Nichols Boat Basin on the Hood River waterfront.

With the port deciding against the cable park, it is now ready to get back on track with some other big items, including planning for its Lot 1 development area, future plans for the Hood River Expo Center, a waterfront access plan and future priorities for the Hood River airport.

Much of the Lot 1 planning process was put on hold while the cable park situation was worked out and the airport is in the process of undergoing a significant renovation through shifting the runway to the east.

“We’ve pushed through a lot of capital projects the last few years,” Port Executive Director Michael McElwee said. “But …. we need to pull the foot off the pedal a little bit.”

Over the next year the port will largely be focusing on the planning for future development and re-examining port policies.

It will also be focusing on using existing resources to make improvements to the marina including electrical improvements, new docks for boat houses, and repurposing of some of the seaplane dock to help accommodate boats that don’t need a full-year lease and also to help accommodate local sailing programs.

While that will constitute the largest part of capital improvements over the next year, the port will be laying the groundwork for significant projects in the year to come.

That includes finishing up planning for Lot 1, the centerpiece for the port’s future development, and gathering additional input on that.

In addition to looking at what sort of development the Port wants to attract for Port 1, high tech and light-industrial or commercial.

There will also be an extended look at how to tackle the west edge of the Nichols basin for access and the basin as a whole.

“The next year is an opportunity to step back and look at internal systems and lot and get more input on lot 1,” McElwee said.

The port recently submitted a grant application for improvements to the area surrounding the basin, and McElwee said the port is proceeding on what amounts to the “Babitz-Davies plan” to use Urban Renewal funding to make improvements in and surrounding the basin.

“The cable park discussion really put a spotlight on the Nichols basin,” McElwee said.

However with the Naito development project at the south end of the basin still up in the air, McElwee said the big question to be answered is how to pay for those improvements once everyone is in agreement on what should be done.

With several big-ticket items out of the way or nearing completion and several more major projects which could dramatically change the look and feel of the Hood River waterfront in the planning stages, McElwee said the next year is the right time for the port to take a breath and make sure it gets the next steps right.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It’s critical ... that we all get it right and it deserves the time it is going to take.”

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