Our Nearby Neighbor is GORGEous!

The wife and I took a couple of days and headed east into the amazing Columbia River Gorge last week. You have seen me write about proximity as a benefit to living in the ‘Couv’ as much as the actual city itself. Our close proximity to Portland is one benefit, and sometimes a curse methinks 😉 We were able to drive just 45 minutes along SR-14 and found ourselves in the lovely town of Stevenson and the amazing Skamania Lodge.

Stevenson and most of Skamania County for that matter, seems like it is another state altogether, yet there it is hiding just over yonder. The drive along SR-14 is rather scenic more or less all the way from Downtown Vancouver but really gets delicious as you head east out of Washougal and into the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Cape Horn Viewpoint in Winter

The first landmark is Cape Horn. This view never gets old for me. I feel like I have to pull over and gape into the giant hole in the Cascade Range with the mighty Columbia River pushing its way through. That is a breathtaking vista and if you get too close to the railing it can be another type of breathtaking.

Next up is the massive Beacon Rock. One of planet Earth’s largest basalt monoliths. You can stop at the state park and take a one mile trek up a narrow trail to its summit to soak up a 360° view. Then it is the mighty Bonneville Dam churning out electric power for the whole region and more.

Rolling into Stevenson is like rolling into Mayberry. You feel like Don Knotts is gonna pull you over, lights flashing, not to write you a ticket or anything but just to say hello and, “Haven’t seen you around, Welcome to the Gorge.”

Skamania Lodge

The Skamania Lodge is quite the place. They have a spectacular 18 hole golf course, spa, amazing views of the river and mountains. It is really a fantastic spot and did I mention it’s just a 45 minute drive? I think I did actually.

Skamania County is more than twice the physical size of Clark County, yet it has just about 2% of our population. Yes, you read that right TWO percent. That’s why it seems like you would have to travel a whole lot further than 40 miles to get to a place like this. Yet there it is, right over there.

If you lived in San Francisco, CA you would have to travel nearly 200 miles to find a county with only 10,000 people. Ah, but we don’t live in San Francisco, now do we? From our wonderful locale, we can be at PDX boarding an airplane in ten minutes or so; downtown Portland in 15 minutes… OK a bit longer with traffic of course; and in the amazing Gorge in just a matter of minutes.

Looking into the Gorge from Skamania Lodge

Clark County is bordered to the south by the most densely populated urban county in the Pacific Northwest with its population density of 1900 peeps per square mile and to the east by Skamania County the absolute opposite and one of the least dense counties in Northwest with a mere 6.8 persons per square mile. Wow, on average that’s a about 1 person for every 100 acres! In fairness a huge portion of Skamania County is occupied by Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Ah the ‘Couv’ life; it is good. And we have just the right population density at about 740 per square mile.

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Where R U Timberhouse and VC-4?

Summit Development proposed the tallest wooden high-rise in America for block 3 of the Waterfront. The Columbian wrote an article about it and things looked peachy. But suddenly all is silent on the CLT structure. Summit still has blurb about the project on their website, but nothing is happening on the premises. The 11 story CLT high-rise in Portland was canceled, does that have anything to do with the lack of movement on Vancouver USAs 12 story CLT apartment building?

CLT for those unaware is “Cross Laminated Timber.” This is a high-tech wood building system that uses modules for construction. It’s durable, affordable and super fast to erect. That other Vancouver that stole our name, built the world’s tallest CLT building recently at 18 floors.

I am excited about the prospect of Timberhouse as this type of building can be erected quickly and some say it is the future for mid-rise construction projects. It is a nice design if they follow the proposed drawings.

And how about Vancouvercenter 4? The city green lighted that project late last year and I have heard nothing of it since. The last word was that Holland Residential was aiming to use a newer “light steel” building method to erect a ten story apartment building on the last plot for Vancouvercenter. The new steel system is in use all over the world but has yet to be approved for “seismic” zones such as ours here in the Pacific Northwest. The alternative was a shorter 6 story project from traditional wood frame construction. According to an article in the Columbian, Holland was working with an engineering firm to confirm the seismic stability of the light gauge steel building system. The 4th tower has been on the “warmer” since 1999 when the whole Vancouvercenter project was approved by the city.

That spot should have a taller structure so the top floors can see over the 6 floor Vancouvercenter 1 apartment building. Luxury condos on floors 9-11 of Vancouver center 3 should be nominally affected as that building is both taller and sits up higher in elevation than the new VC-4 tower.

I read an article in from a business journal in Portland that was posted on the Gramor – Waterfront website. The article is largely an interview with Barry Cain of Gramor Development and he sand some high praise for our city government. In contrast to Portland it seems we get things done! Kudos to the ‘Couv’ with our Mayor, council and Manager working to get these projects through the bureaucracy.

Ah the ‘Couv’ life; it is good… better than Portland, even Barry Cain thinks so 😉

The Waterfront is Great and all… How about more Jobs?

picture of riverfront buildings
Waterfront from 7th floor of Hilton Hotel

All of you regulars on this blog know full well I am a fanboy for the Vancouver USA Waterfront project and the ancillary projects at the Terminal One, Downtown, and Uptown. I commend the city on a job well done thus far with this truly ambitious project. But I also find my self concerned. The local economy along with the national economy are doing well. Jobs are once again plentiful and unemployment is low across all education levels. This is good, right? Of course it is. So the question in the title is lurking about isn’t it?

How about more jobs? Our city needs to continue to make Vancouver USA even better. Projects like the Waterfront may lead to gentrification issues some of which we have already seen. Higher prices, rents, etc. This is not all bad, gentrification brings in cash and leads to a cleaner better city, but with it needs to come high paying JOBS. The city needs to start pushing NOW for more large companies with high paying jobs, like FACTORIES and Professional Firms. There are so many advantages to Vancouver over our larger and dirtier neighbor on the south bank of the Columbia.

The city needs to sell it though. Portland is a popular major city, they are well-known and already on the radar of companies looking to expand or relocate. Vancouver USA needs to push and shove its way onto their radar. We have much to offer and the citizens of this city deserve to work here as well as live here. Bringing another 15-20,000 jobs to the north shore will alleviate rush hour traffic on both spans and bring with it tank loads of tax cash for city and state coffers. Some 60,000 Clark County residents still trudge across the bridges each day to jobs in Portland.

It’s time for the ‘Couv’ to bring back some of that mid 20th century industrial might and to strut some modern 21st century tech and give our citizens a chance to stay put north of the Columbia. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. That should be the focus of the city council over the next several years. We have a massive economic boom happening in this country and we need to capitalize on it right now! One way to pop onto the radar of larger companies is to complete the annexations in greater orchards. Get on that Madam Mayor…

Ah the ‘Couv’ Life; it is good.