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Mixed-use project emerges in town of Battle Ground

Portland Business Journal

Developers create a village, gambling on lots of retail space "off the beaten path"

October 12th 2007

The city of Battle Ground, Wash., is getting more.

More offices, residences, retail spots, industrial areas and community service locations.

The bounty comes courtesy of the $244 million Battle Ground Center, under development southeast of the town's center.

"The project really mirrors our town's philosophy - a place to live, work, shop and play," said Dennis Osborn, city manager for Battle Ground, a community of 16,000 located 11 miles northeast of Vancouver.

Now under construction, the 108-acre development brings a 35-acre industrial park, 23-acre retail center, 30-acre medical/office complex, and 20 acres with 172 single-family homes. The retail center features a 40-unit live/work village-within-a-village.

Carmen Villarma, president of Vancouver's The Management Group Inc., and co-developer of the project with her husband, Dennis Pavlina, appreciates the town's receptiveness.

"People are moving from cities to more rural areas," she said. "They wanted us to work within that ambience."

The result is open arms for a development less dense than Portland-area counterparts such as Tanasbourne, but still embodying "new urbanist" ideals, with multiple amenities in walkable proximity.

"It has a sense of place," Osborn said. "We've never had a project like that before."

Osborn enthuses over employment potential: "We work with developers aggressively... on jobs," he said.

The land was the largest available parcel zoned for mixed use in northern Clark County; it had to be used effectively.

The industrial park, Commerce East, consists of seven lots with infrastructure in place but otherwise undeveloped. Two sales are complete and two are pending, according to Villarma.

The office park, Corporate South, comprises 13 lots from 1 to 6 acres.

"We are still putting in infrastructure," Villarma said. "It'll be complete by the end of this year, we hope."

Osborn believes residential interest in Battle Ground, largely from the Portland area, is due to affordability, rural character and excellent schools.

The project's 172-lot housing subdivision was sold to New Tradition Homes, of Battle Ground, for development; the first phase is built and selling, and the second phase should go up within six months, Villarma said.

Villarma and Pavlina concentrated on the $200 million centerpiece: Battle Ground Village, comprising 18 retail buildings, 40 live/work units (called The Oaks) in nine clusters, two parks, a landscaped lake, and one leg of the Chelatchie Prairie regional trail.

Principal architect Philip Stewart, of The Myhre Group in Portland, praises the developers' vision of a semi-urban village.

"They wanted it to feel like a village with five or six distinct, historical styles," he said. "The diversity is intriguing and challenging."

Six of 18 retail buildings are under construction; the rest will be phased in as leasing progresses.

Nothing symbolizes strong local support so much as the new 15,000-square-foot Battle Ground public library, included at Pavlina's instigation.

Designed in the form of a lodge with characteristic Northwest features, the library faces the village's oval central park. Groundbreaking took place Oct. 4.