ILWACO - It all started out with three men in retirement looking for a property investment opportunity to improve the Peninsula community. It eventually will end in as many as 400 new homes in Ilwaco, with additional lots and townhouses coming soon.
Around Labor Day 1997, Rich Marshall, Brian Wirkkala and Stan Sorenson invested in a foreclosed parcel of high ground on the west side of Ilwaco with dreams of building big. The partners are now preparing to offer several dozen additional homesites within about year.
With combined experience in finance, telecommunications and development, the trio dedicated seven years to preparing the 350-acre wooded hilltop lot for future plans of providing a variety of upscale lots and townhouses.
"When the Peninsula was platted 100 years ago, they created long, narrow lots with no consistent plan or standards - which is why there are million dollar homes right next to trailers. Now we have 350 acres to control the quality, the architecture and make it homogeneous," explains Marshall.
With just an estimated 125 acres suitable for building, currently only 40 acres are beginning to be adorned with upscale, single family, low-density residences, along with a townhouse project designed by Abito (formerly Pennbrook Homes) of Bend, Ore.
Busy construction is under way on the townhouses, which occupy the development's highest ground on the edge of the new Lewis and Clark National Park. Additional townhouses are being planned for an area just above the State Route 100 pullout that overlooks Beards Hollow.
"We sold 20 lots at first, they just sold like pancakes," explains Marshall concerning the individual homesites. "Then we developed 16 more lots and currently we have sold all but one of them.... They're nice large homes on nice large lots with a great view. Most of them will be put in tasteful clusters of development separated by ravines and green areas. The townhouse project will be amongst the best housing on the Peninsula."
Reserving and selling lots since 2004, homebuyers are finding the area so appealing that the homesites are selling much faster than expected. Peninsula visitors from Portland, Vancouver, Seattle, California and even the east coast are flocking to Ilwaco to put their dollars down for a spot in Discovery Heights.
"People from outside areas look at the tax structure," says Wirkkala. "Also the values here are higher than what you might find for coastal property south of here. People that are purchasing here are usually people who are retired or looking toward retirement."
"Our area is becoming more and more attractive all the time to outsiders," agrees Marshall. "We have so many improvements throughout the city of Ilwaco, such as the new hospital, the community building renovation, the expansion of the port and its services, the new Grays Harbor College annex and the new commercial building and condos going in where Red's Antiques used to be. They like the quality of our development and find the pricing of the property really attractive and sales have been everything we expected."
Both Wirkkala and Marshall feel that the further development of Discovery Heights will substantially increase the tax base for the city of Ilwaco, help cover the costs of the new sewage treatment plant and will not put much of a burden on the public schools.
"It's an attractive addition to the community and the area," says Wirkkala. "And it's not an eyesore or visible to the main roads."
Marshall notes that the development of Discovery Heights has also contributed more than $50,000 for the construction of the eight-mile Discovery Trail between Ilwaco and Long Beach.
"We would really like to thank the community for all the support, as well as the city of Ilwaco and the city of Long Beach, they have been very helpful with the Discovery Trail project."
If development continues at the same pace of 25 to 30 lots per year, Marshall expects that "the bulk of Discovery Heights could be finished in about 10 years." One of the many additions to the acreage will be ocean-view condo on the ridge above the roadside viewpoint on Robert Gray Drive.
It is estimated that there will be a new supply of single-family lots soon, possibly within a year. For more information about the lots available in Discovery Heights, contact Lighthouse Realty or Dennis Oman Realty.