Flurry of commercial development hits College Place

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COLLEGE PLACE -- More than $11.5 million in construction projects are in the works here in a new flurry of commercial development.

Retailers, banks and existing businesses have either filed for permits or are already in the midst of construction projects in the first surge of commercial building since the recession hit.

College Place City Administrator Pat Reay said about eight commercial projects are on the horizon for the community, including a new Les Schwab tire center and Chase bank. A few projects, such as the new Gilbert Autoplex and Panda Express, are still in the review stages, but many are already under way.

Reay said the development represents a "good" year for assessed value for the community. But the news would be even better if it came with a corresponding surge in residential building, he said.

"We are seeing a burst in commercial development right now, but on the flip side we've seen a dropoff in residential development," Reay said.

The new property taxes and taxable retail sales that result on the commercial side are large contributors to the economy. But the residential growth completes the picture, he said.

The most expensive project currently in the works is Community Bank's new three-story bank branch and administrative office on Commercial Drive. Under construction off State Route 125 the 21,000-square-foot building is valued at $3.8 million.

Similar in size but still in the plan review phase is the proposed Gilbert Honda, Reay said. That development is valued at $2.3 million.

Under construction at Meadowbrook Plaza across from Wal-Mart is a 4,200-square-foot Chase branch valued at $1 million.

Les Schwab Tires is moving dirt nearby for a 9,500-square-foot facility valued at $1.2 million. Reay said the construction time frame on that project is 120 days. Unlike other businesses operating at the plaza, Les Schwab has bought the land, Reay said.

The acquisition reflects a changing business model for Spokane firm Vandervert Developments, which has been building tenancy at the property for five years.

Reay said Panda Express has resubmitted its plan for review on a 2,500-square-foot restaurant valued at $725,000.

Additionally, the owners of Rogers Bakery, Kelli and Lenny Leen, are rebuilding their College Avenue business after a fire ripped through the ceiling last February.

Their work follows a completed remodel at the nearby Dairy Express, Reay said.

Not far from there, Walla Walla University is working on a major remodel of their Winter Education Complex.

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