Coffee & Commerce

Wenatchee Valley Chamber

There was a full house turnout for the early morning "Coffee & Commerce" event hosted by the WVCC and sponsored by Numerica Credit Union.

Pictured from left: Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shiloh Sauer, city of Wenatchee's Economic Development Director Steve King, property investor Rory Turner, Vice President/Relationship Manager Heidi Myers of Washington Trust Bank and Port District of Douglas County Executive Director Lisa Parks. Photos Gary Bégin/WBJ

'Coffee & Commerce' event reveals new projects, lack of housing

"Commercial development takes energy, creativeness, and capital," according to the advertisement for the event put out by the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce. The mid-September "Coffee & Commerce" event at the Town Toyota Center was a discussion about commercial development, the current economic climate for commercial real estate, renovation of historic properties and community partnerships surrounding commercial development, explained the invitation to the community.
Most of the audience consisted of real estate brokers, mortgage and banking executives as was expected based on the seminar's content.
The panel of local experts consisted of  Rory Turner of Commercial Real Estate Services, Heidi Myers of Washington Trust Bank, Port of Douglas County Executive Director Lisa Parks and city of Wenatchee Community and Economic Development Director Steve King.
Turner, who is also a Port District of Chelan commissioner, "is a commercial real estate investor with a focus on forming partnerships to increase opportunities for business development and growth. Wenatchee projects include the Dore Building remodel of 12,000 ft into Vintage Office Suites, revitalization of the Wenatchee’s 5th and Mission Shopping Center and renovation and increase of leasable space in the 'Exchange Building' in downtown Wenatchee. His current projects focus on enhancing historic structures in downtown cores," according to the Port website.
Turner told the attendees he was "very optimistic"  about the influx of "creativity, energy and capital" and described the downtown Wenatchee business and building turnover as "an exciting revitalization."
Turner also said it would be an ideal situation to turn the Federal Building and the Chelan PUD building into mixed use facilities with tech space, residential, office space and art and culture venues once the current tenants vacate.
LocalTel bought the Federal Building at 301 Yakima St. for $3.9 million July 25 and the current tenants, including the Social Security Administration, are expected to eventually move to other buildings once their leases expire.
That scenario also applies to the Chelan PUD building at 327 North Wenatchee Ave., which is expected to eventually be leasing or building other facilities thus allowing a huge amount of available square footage for a variety of possibilities, according to Turner.
City of Wenatchee Community and Economic Development Director Steve King said Wenatchee has taken the opportunity to change some of its basic infrastructure after the disastrous fires of recent years. Some of that change comes in the form of creating a new intersection in the 1500 block of North Wenatchee Avenue by buying out Northwest Wholesale and the Washington State Department of Transportation properties and turning it into a 30-acre parcel available for new projects.
King described the future of Wenatchee as an aggressive opportunity to continue evolving the symbiotic relationship between the city and business, especially desirable food, service and hospitality-type companies.
King also announced an "ask" of the federal government for a grant/loan of $150 million to go along with $120 million from state and local sources in order to build a third bridge over the Columbia River. He said the current Trump administration was keen on infrastructure projects nationwide so this was an ideal time to request the assistance.
He said it was a regional partnership between Chelan and Douglas counties which could guide 40,000 cars daily towards commercial interaction on both sides of the river.
King's talk predicted Wenatchee would eventually become a city of "100,000 to 140,000 people." He said, "Believe me it will happen." After touring Yakima, Bend, Oregon and Boise, Idaho he said Boise was the city he admired most, calling it a "diverse economy that was agriculturally based much like Wenatchee" and a great example of government-private collaboration.
He said Boise "had a great feel like Wenatchee."
Vice President and Relationship Manager Heidi Myers of Washington Trust Bank said "Real estate is a great banking opportunity because it's 'real'.
She also said "bankers love owner occupied or investment real estate" especially if and hopefully if the owners have "some liquidity to support vacancies."
Port District of Douglas County Executive Director Lisa Parks said the community benefits the most when there is a "private and government collaboration, working together in partnerships."
Meeting host and moderator Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shiloh Sauer said seminars like these are a great opportunity for "learning from each other."
The only negative note was struck when Parks said "lack of housing is a problem and causes people not to want to move here."
She said that although the area has the "most rapid increase of home values in the nation, prices are too high for vacant unimproved land."
Parks pointed to the need for return on investment (ROI) by investors and questioned if anyone wanted to pay top dollar for a parcel and then have to pay many thousands more for permits, sewers, electric and roads before that parcel could be developed.
The breakfast event was sponsored by Numerica Credit Union.

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