Port starts lengthy look at Nichols Basin plans

The future of a hotel on the south end of the former Nichols Boat basin is still up in the air, but the Port of Hood River’s plan for the west side of the basement has become more clear.

At the Port of Hood River Commissioner’s meeting on July 24 the commission heard from Dick Spies of Group Mackenzie, an engineering firm contracted to develop a plan for Lot 1, which sits to the west of the boat basin and south of the Event Site.

Spies presented concept drawings for two different options for the site. The first has five buildings set up in a linear block around what is currently the unpaved parking lot on the site, with a cluster of six buildings backing an esplanade next to the boat basin.

The second has the five-building cluster but with two northernmost buildings set off in an “L” shape and three larger buildings backing the esplanade.

Group Mackenzie’s drawings split the site into three zones. Zone A includes the area between First and Second streets, the current parking lots; Zone B includes the buildings behind the esplanade and Zone C is the esplanade itself.

Zone A “is recommended as the light-industrial, job creation center for the site,” Zone B “is the mixed retail/office and public interface to Nichols Basin” while Zone C “below the flowage easement to the Nichols Basin water is for public access, open space and trail.”

The buildings in Zone A would likely be between 15,000-30,000 square feet and would be mostly one-story buildings.

The business park would also include shelters, which could be used for food vendors or by the community, as well as a waterfront trail.

The project is designed to tie into Hood River’s technological and entrepreneurial community, a group which likes to work hard and play hard.

“Hood River can continue to be attractive for entrepreneurs who come for recreation and related lifestyle reasons, start a business and then have good reason to expand locally,” the Group Mackenzie report on the plan states.

Spies said it was likely the business community which would develop in Lot 1 and “see the value of the recreational uses which take place adjacent to them.”

One of those recreational possibilities would be a potential cable park, which Spies explicitly mentioned.

“The cable park is an obvious plus but we feel the site is strong enough it could survive without it,” he said. “If we design it right those businesses will be stimulated just by the great waterway you have.”

The port will be deciding on whether or not to offer a lease to Naito Development of Portland for a recreational cable park facility in the boat basin.

The cable park would provide opportunities for wake boarders in the basin, and the Naitos want the project approved to go along with a planned hotel and commercial building on the south end of the basin.

After discussing the proposals for Lot 1, the commission moved on to its timeline for determining whether to offer the lease for the cable park.

Port Executive Director Michael McElwee laid out the timeline for the decision-making process.

At its Aug. 7 meeting the commission will hold a stakeholder input meeting for those supportive of the cable park.

At the Aug. 21 meeting the commission will hold a stakeholder input session for those opposed to the cable park.

On Sept. 4 the port commission will be presented with a summary of key issues and public input and site alternatives from port staff.

A special meeting on Sept. 12 has been designated for additional public testimony and to review staff recommendation.

The commission is currently slated to vote on a decision at its Sept. 18 meeting.

The commission debated on whether to also seek a recommendation from the Waterfront Recreation Committee but ultimately decided not to request a recommendation.

“I think they are more involved in the operation side of the waterfront; not a major capital investment like this,” said commissioner Fred Duckwall.

Hoby Streich and Brian Shortt agreed with that assessment, but added that they did want input from the committee.

“I still want them there,” Shortt said.

The commission also elected to not take comment on the cable park during the public comment session of the two meetings with stakeholders. The presentations by those for and against the cable park will be limited to about 90 minutes each, with the commission reserving time for follow-up questions.

The port has already extended invitations to several groups on both sides to make their case for against the cable park.

Commissioners said they want to get as much public input as possible in the run-up to the mid-September decision on the lease.

“We encourage all members of the public, right, left center, especially center, to come and speak to us,” said commission president Jon Davies.

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