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College Place eyes incentive program for developers

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Downtown mixed-use district

Maps of the Downtown Mixed-Use Zone, which is within the highlighted properties. The building chosen from the catalyst incentive program should be within this zone.

COLLEGE PLACE — City leaders are looking into a program to award reduced or waived building permit fees to one developer per year that bests other mixed-use development projects and meets the criteria of the program.

College Place City Council members were introduced to the Downtown Catalyst Program, which would provide an incentive for development within downtown, at a recent work session.

“Our economic development commission, which consists of business owners in the city, they basically asked me to look around and see what other cities in Washington state were doing to help incentivize redevelopment in downtown corridors,” City Administrator Mike Rizzitiello said.

Years ago, city staff collected feedback from the community to create design guidelines that showed residents wanted a walkable, mixed-use downtown with areas where people can shop and live.

“If you get additional mixed-use structures on College Avenue, you’re gonna have an increase in potential customers, and if you have people wandering around, likely they’ll stop by the businesses,” Rizzitiello said.

Business owners would be in favor of this program to bring more business to College Place, he said.

The Economic Development, Tourism, and Events Commission would review applications and grade the projects based on four points: public benefit, architectural design, site design and ability to create change.

Requirements for applicants state that the building must be for mixed use, a minimum of two stories, five dwelling units and 3,000 square feet, according to official documents.

The project must be new construction and needs to meet downtown design guidelines.

“It would be competitive, and if a project does those various options, it would essentially be graded by the economic development commission, and they would give recommendations to City Council for approval,” Rizzitiello said.

Scores would favor projects with more onsite parking than the city requires, publicly viewable art, affordable housing units or a development that expands and enhances the city’s skyline, according to official documents.

The idea seemed to appeal to city leaders, according to Rizzitiello.

“It’ll be on further Council agendas because the economic development commission, they were really excited to see something like this happen and hopefully jump start something,” he said.

Chloe LeValley covers the cities of Walla Walla and College Place as well as agriculture and the environment in the Walla Walla Valley. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University and joined the Union-Bulletin's team in October 2019.

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