Attila Szabo remembers visiting the Waterfront Vancouver for the first time a couple years ago with Barry Cain, president of Gramor Development. It was a gray and rainy Northwest day, and there wasn't much going on at the site.
"It was bare dirt," said Szabo, president and operating partner for WildFin American Grill. "But as Barry explained the vision and you saw the pictures of what they had in mind, it wasn't very difficult to get on board."
Fast-forward two years, and that bare dirt is now home not only to WildFin, but also Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar, the first two businesses to open in the Waterfront Vancouver development. WildFin opened its doors today in one building; Twigs will open in a separate building on Wednesday.
Photos: The new Vancouver waterfront
"We're excited about having these two very experienced restaurateurs opening to the public here," Cain said.
In addition to the new restaurants opening, the city of Vancouver will also hold a grand opening celebration of the new Waterfront Vancouver Park and the Grant Street Pier this Saturday. The park and the pier are centering features of the 32-acre development, which Cain has worked on for nearly 20 years.
The development is rising on 20 blocks of property that were once home to a Boise Cascade paper mill. The master plan envisions 3,300 housing units, 10 acres of parks, 1.2 million square feet of office space and 250,000 square feet of retail space.
Several other projects are currently under construction near the two restaurant buildings. Gramor is developing the 63-unit Rediviva apartments, which should open in November, as well as the Murdock Building, a 62,000-square-foot office building that will be anchored by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust when it opens in November. Maryhill Winery will open a tasting room next to Twigs later this year, and Barlow Public House will open upstairs sometime next year.
HSP properties is well on its way with River West, a 207-unit apartment building across from Twigs that will open in the spring, and Kirkland Development has started construction on its Hotel Indigo, which will include 138 rooms and 40 condos. Gramor is planning an 80-unit condo building for Block 16, and Summit Development has proposed a 250-unit cross-laminated timber building for Block 3. That still leaves multiple blocks for future development.
"For the most part, it'll be other people developing things here," Cain said. "We just wanted to get things started."
He also said that the completion of the first few projects in the development will likely remove any hesitation that other investors and developers may have shown.
"Up until now, it's taken investors with a little more foresight, but now it's not going to take that anymore," Cain said. "After these restaurants open up and they're killing it, and once we open these other buildings and they're all rented up, everybody wants to join in."
The Portland Business Journal is a KGW News partner.