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Port of Kalama plans for cruise dock, tourism facility move forward

Port of Kalama plans for cruise dock, tourism facility move forward

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Plans to build an estimated $4.8 million public market facility to accompany a cruise-ship dock in the works at the Port of Kalama got the go-ahead from commissioners Wednesday.

The estimated cost for is the entire project is $6.3 million, according to an economic analysis presented Wednesday.

Citing the study, Eric Yakovich, port economic development manager, told commissioners the project could have a direct economic impact of $5 million annually in sales and employment.

The port contracted with PND Engineers in January for planning, design and permitting support for the cruise dock on the Columbia River. The dock will cost about $1.3 million to $1.5 million. If the project moves forward as planned, the port hopes to go out to bid in June 2021, award the bid in July and complete construction by March 2022.

Port commissioners Wednesday gave staff the go-ahead to move forward with researching architects to design the tourism facility. The port will have to go through an official selection process to choose an architect but first wants to get more information, said Mark Wilson, executive director.

As currently planned, the approximately 18,000-square-foot building would be located off North Hendrickson Drive at the south end of Marine Park near the new dock. It would include a public market on the first floor and lodging and a restaurant or pub on the second floor.

McMenamins Kalama Harbor Lodge has expressed interest in leasing the second floor and operating the lodging and restaurant, according to the analysis.

The study estimates annual lodging revenue at about $770,000 and restaurant revenue about $3.2 million per year.

While the concept for the public market is still in the early stages, it likely would accommodate about 14 vendor spaces inside and about 30 more outside seasonally. Benefits of the market include spending opportunities for visitors and locals, income for local vendors, a business incubator for vendors, lease income for the port and a public event space, according to the study.

The market would require an annual income of $1 million or more to support its operation, Yakovich said. The analysis recommends the port subcontract market operations, he added.

American Cruise Lines, which operates river cruises on the Columbia and Snake rivers, is the only river cruise that now docks in Kalama. Ships park at the beach at Ahles Point and spends four to 10 hours there, depending on the voyage.

Most of the passengers immediately board buses for a tour of Mount St. Helens and spend little or no time in the town or at the port, according to the study. Ahles Point is about half of a mile from Marine Park and about a mile walking distance from downtown Kalama.

With the new dock, cruise ships would spend 20 to 24 hours in Kalama, and the dock’s location would make it easier for passengers to visit port facilities and the town of Kalama, according to the study.

The port would have to go forward with its plan to replace the pedestrian overpass linking West Frontage Road and North Hendrickson Drive. But the study says even with the new $4.4 million handicap-accessible overpass, the walk still would be a barrier to many passengers, who are typically older. The study recommends the port and American Cruise Line collaborate on a shuttle service.

The study estimates annual cruise passenger spending would be about $450,000, based on projections of American Cruise Lines passengers for 2022.

Yakovich said one downside noted in the study is the lack of current demand for a second berth at Kalama. No other river cruise companies have expressed interest in the dock, he said.

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