The project could be an early user of the new federal Opportunity Zones program. (Reprinted from DJC)

Image from Ward-Young Architecture & Planning. A centerpiece of the development would be a food and wine hall.

Image from Ward-Young Architecture & Planning. A centerpiece of the development would be a food and wine hall.

Foodies and wine connoisseurs take note: a 52-acre resort planned along the Columbia River in downtown Pasco may be for you.

Tri-City resident and developer Mitch Gilbert has signed a letter of intent with the Port of Pasco to buy the land at Osprey Pointe and wants to start construction in 2020 on the first phase of the culinary and entertainment destination. For $11 million, Gilbert will get the 52 acres plus another 20 acres in shallow waters, which will allow development of a 100-slip marina and recreational beach for residents.

The $52 million first phase, opening in 2022 at East Ainsworth Avenue, includes the marina, an 80-room boutique hotel, waterfront courtyard, culinary education center, 5,000-seat amphitheater, a food and wine hall, and over 30 chef-driven restaurants. The food and wine hall would have 30-40 vendors and production facilities for a bakery, winery and creamery.

The development is expected to be a gathering place for events, festivals and concerts.

A second phase would add housing and more retail. Gilbert expects it to cost $25 million-$35 million and may include a mix of for-sale villas and condos in buildings up to 10 stories. Final details haven't been worked out.

A third phase could add more housing, a community center and waterpark. Gilbert said it's possible the third phase could be built before the second.

The site is mostly vacant, except for a 20,000-square-foot building occupied by the port and a few other tenants. That building would be retrofitted for the new development.

Image from Hansen Design. Full build out covers 52 acres and a new marina.

Image from Hansen Design. Full build out covers 52 acres and a new marina.

Gilbert is developing the project under an LLC called Eaty Gourmet. His team includes Hansen Design, a Seattle firm experienced in port project design, and Ward-Young Architecture + Planning, a California firm experienced in destination resort design.

Gilbert said they plan to hire a general contractor in about six months, as the design phase progresses. He said they want to use a local contractor. “It's not going to be about the best bid, it's going to be about understanding our design,” he said.

Working with Gilbert are restaurant consultant Ken Batali and former advertising executive Dave Syferd. Batali is in charge of getting restaurants to the dining hall and will provide input on traffic flow in that building. Syferd oversees branding and marketing.

Gilbert said a well-known wine industry executive will also likely join the team and he is talking with a “substantial brand” for naming rights to the amphitheater.

Funding for the project will likely come from investors in the federal Opportunity Zones program, which is part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Opportunity zones are economically distressed communities that have been nominated by a state and certified by the U.S. Treasury. Last April, Gov. Jay Inslee approved 139 zones in Washington state, including Gilbert's Pasco site.

The Opportunity Zones program allows investors to roll capital gains from other investments into a qualified opportunity fund for the projects. The gains are tax-deferred until an opportunity zone investment is sold. There also are tax breaks for holding reinvestments in opportunity funds for five and seven years.

A permanent tax exclusion on the appreciation involving an opportunity fund property is available to investors after 10 years.

Qualified opportunity funds are partnerships and corporations set up for investing in distressed properties.

Gilbert said opportunity zone investments aren't just one building: they are master developments that build thriving local economies.

“That's huge,” he said, adding that the port didn't want just another industrial project.

Jean Ryckman, port commission president, said the project can be transformational for Pasco and the Tri-Cities.

“The port commission has always believed that Osprey Pointe is a special place to create investment and opportunity in Pasco,” Ryckman said in a news release. “The Eaty Gourmet group gets that. The vision they presented will accelerate revitalization and create national interest and prestige.”

Eaty Gourmet also signed a memorandum of understanding with Washington State University Tri-Cities to explore training and learning opportunities at Osprey Pointe for businesses and the community.

Read the full article as it was originally published by the Daily Journal of Commerce, here: $52M first phase of Pasco resort along the Columbia to start in 2020

Article written by Benjamin Minnick, who can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

Lori Randall