In an emotional and passionate talk of about 40 minutes in length, Don Cardon lined out his aspirations for development in Longview at yesterday’s meeting of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council, announcing that ground will be broken on a new apartment, restaurant and retail development next to the Columbia Theatre in fall of this year, and should be open for occupancy in a little over a year after that. Cardon tells the packed house that making significant development happen isn’t a “passive activity”…cardon…Cardon says that the development on Vandercook Way will have a value of around $15 million, and will include somewhere between 100 to 130 apartment units. A portion of those apartments will be made available as student housing for Lower Columbia College, with an emphasis on attracting international students. The lower level will have a restaurant and specialty retail, and will also have a plaza that connects to the Columbia Theatre. Cardon says he envisions events and other gatherings in the plaza, with that area serving as a “beachhead” for a revitalization of downtown moving south.
In regard to Mark Morris High School, Cardon confirms that his company has been asked to conduct some exploratory studies about what could be done with that property, along with the property at Northlake Elementary School. He says this discussion grew out of several gatherings with local friends, which then evolved into discussions about “what could be” on those properties. Cardon says that he’s envisioning three “zones” of development, costing between $150 million and $200 million at full buildout. Zone 1, near the lake, could be condos, with specialty retail and a trail system, zone 2 could be redeveloped as university or vocational training center, then zone 3, near 15th and Ocean Beach Highway, could be a “power retail” area, building off the synergy with the Triangle Shopping Center. Cardon says that these discussions are exploratory in nature, and he says that there may or may not be a purchase offer at the end of the process. Still he says that this property could be a “regional activator,” bringing in international capital to help spur private investment in the area. Cardon says that will be a benefit to LCC, Longview Schools and the region as a whole. Cardon says that he has plenty of other opportunities to invest $150 million, but he wants to re-invest in Longview. He says that the key is to “funnel passion into a solution.” A report should be ready by June.