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For years now the town of Camas, which sits east of Vancouver on the Columbia River, has worked to remove the sleepy mantle of "mill town" from around its neck. In the early '90s Camas began to see some higher-end residential development, particularly around Lacamas Lake, and it seemed a turnaround from the days when people dismissed their town as blue collar. City leaders tried to ride this change of image further. They labored over land use decisions, attempting to increase the city property tax base while preserving the feel of a smaller town, to create more jobs while maintaining a consistent, negotiable traffic flow. The city annexed the 675-acre Dwyer Creek area in 1997, a move that provided the space to realize a major city goal: the development of a business and industrial park, which could satisfy several of these criteria at once.

Now they are getting one: Camas Meadows Corporate Center. "It's going to be an outstanding business park," says Marty Snell, the Camas city planner. "I just looked at lots along the north side of the complex today, right along the 18th fairway. It's just beautiful."

Um -- did he say 18th fairway? He sure did. Turns out Camas Meadows Corporate Center is a cutting edge mixed-use development. It surrounds its own golf course.

The course has always been in the plans for Camas Meadows; it's the business park that's new. When Vanport International of Boring, Ore., bought the 335 acres that comprise the Camas Meadows project in the early '90s, it initially planned a residential golf development. After a city review of growth management plans and the dissent of some citizen activists, a Clark County court determined that residential development couldn't occur on the Camas Meadows land if that land was to come inside the city's growth boundary.

"The city rezoned the property to light industrial," says Chester Knapp, the project manager at Camas Meadows. "We shifted plans from developing residential to developing a business park."

Tom Shipler, who is developing the project in partnership with Adolf Hertrich of Vanport, says the course was already under construction when the city rezoned the land. He and Hertrich ruminated on the problem for a few weeks and then decided to go ahead with an industrial park. "We thought, well, it's worth a try," Shipler says. "Let's see what happens."

The project sits in annexed area and is part of the Dwyer Creek master plan that the city of Camas is currently finishing. It's all zoned light industrial, and the city's planning addresses land use, utilities and roads. The golf course covers 165 of those acres and winds through the site's extensive wetlands. It marries nicely with the Class A business park, creating a more open, campus-like setting that covers roughly 20% less of the area than a residential development would. And this higher, better use of the land is expected to increase tax revenue as well as add over 2,500 jobs to the area.

"At first blush, it sounds like a neat idea," says Tim Warren, president of both Three Oaks Development in Portland and the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks. Warren recalls seeing a similar project in the East, but nowhere in the Northwest.

"Since the park is light industrial, there will be no noise or pollution," he says. "I'd think the course and the park would operate in harmony, It should do very well."

"I can even see some corprate headquarters or West Coast operations centers locating there," says Snell, who likens Camas Meadows to high-end multistory developments like Vancouver's Columbia Tech Center. "What CEO wouldn't want a third floor corner office overlooking a fairway?"
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Author:Netzer, Greg
Publication:Oregon Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 1999

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