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Port paves way for Refresco expansion on Dell Avenue

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Refresco at Dell Avenue building

Refresco will be growing be adding another chunk of 38,000 square feet to its operations at the Port of Walla Walla's Dell Avenue building.

Just six months after leasing space in the Port of Walla Walla's Dell Avenue property, beverage manufacturer Refresco is expanding its footprint.

The world's largest independent bottler of drinks — juices to soft drinks, energy drinks to ready-to-drink cocktails — plans to add another more than 38,000 square feet to its operation in the former Crown Cork & Seal Building.

Port of Walla Walla commissioners Thursday unanimously voted to authorize Executive Director Patrick Reay to amend the original lease agreement. With review and approval from legal counsel, the move paves the way for Refresco to expand into the west warehouse and manufacturing area.

Some of the space had previously been identified for Mainstem Malt's headquarters and malting operation for the craft beverage industry. The Port is working on a separate location for that operation.

Reay told commissioners Thursday the demand for space is the "result of Refresco's second line." He said portions of the existing space are "plumb full of stackable containers — various shapes, colors and flavors."

Refresco purchased the concentrate manufacturing business of Cott Beverages LLC, the company that operated its private-label juice manufacturing on Dell Avenue, next to the Port's building.

As part of its acquisitions, the company also reportedly planned to relocate its Kennewick-based operation to Walla Walla, creating an additional line.

Of the Port's 194,000 square feet of space, Refresco has occupied about 59,600 square feet. That includes 7,200 square feet in the western section of the west warehouse, 16,800 square feet in the back warehouse, 20,800 square feet in the upper warehouse and 14,800 square feet in the train shed for warehousing and logistics business operations.

Refresco contacted the Port earlier this month about leasing additional space. That includes 4,800 square feet in the west warehouse and 33,800 square feet in the manufacturing areas.

Reay said the project meets all of the Port's criteria for partnership: "Jobs have been created, investments have been made, the space is available," he told commissioners.

The amendment coincides with the existing lease agreement. Initial term was 2 ½ years with two renewal options for two years each.

Existing cost per square foot through 2022 is 38 cents. When the first option is exercised, the cost increases the first year to 39 cents per square foot and 40 cents per square foot. The second option will increase prices to 41 cents and 42 cents per square foot the next two years.

Under the previous arrangement for use of the space, improvements had not yet started. Thus, staff Thursday laid out about $80,000 worth of Port-initiated work that remains before Refresco expands there.

Those include removal of old light fixtures and obsolete equipment, insulation of a small metal section on the west side of the manufacturing area, installation of white vapor cover over exiting windows on the west side of the manufacturing area, replacement of eight old natural gas heaters with four new energy-efficient natural gas heaters, and miscellaneous other items.

The funds would come from the Port's capital project reserve.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.