The Downtown Spokane Partnership, acting in its role as University District plan administrator, has hired a consultant to do an analysis of housing potential and needs in the U-District, located east of downtown.
DSP President Marty Dickinson says the nonprofit organization has selected Zimmerman/Volk Associates Inc., of Clinton, N.J., to do the $10,000 study and expects it to take about four months to complete, after which it will be published and made available to the public on the U-District Web site.
Zimmerman/Volk did a downtown housing study for DSP six years ago, and Dickinson says one of the hopes is that the U-District study data will provide the same kind of benefit to developers that the downtown study did.
The former study "helped many of our housing developers be able to secure financing because it had some real numbers behind it," in terms of the size, nature, and potential of the downtown housing market, and was a catalyst for the first downtown condo project, the Blue Chip Lofts, she says.
For U-District housing developers, she says, the new study "can be a tool that helps put some validity behind what they're trying to do," as well, as they seek project funding.
"Obviously we'll be looking at students and staff, but also the broader group (of potential residents) that might just want to live in this area," even if they don't have particular education-related ties drawing them there, Dickenson says.
The U-District stretches from Interstate 90 to about Sharp Avenue east of Division Street, encompassing an area that includes hundreds of businesses clustered around the Gonzaga University and Riverpoint campuses. Washington State University and Eastern Washington University both have extensive programs at Riverpoint, which also is home to Sirti, the Washington state economic-development agency that assists technology startups.
WSU-Spokane recently has been updating a master plan for the Riverpoint Campus that calls for the development of hundreds of thousands of square feet of additional space by 2015, and Gonzaga also has millions of dollars worth of capital projects planned in coming years.
Still, Dickenson says, "First we need to understand, do we need housing, and what is the market?"
Zimmerman/Volk initially will focus on interviewing a range of U-District stakeholders, including university representatives, housing developers, and others, to gain insight into and establish some starting parameters on affordable and work-force housing in the area, she says.
The consultant then will do an evaluation of the area itself, identifying its characteristics and constraints, followed by a "supply-side data compilation" to look at the current housing inventory, new development already occurring, and the potential fit for additional projects, she says.
"Lastly, they will look at what is the optimum market" in that area, such as the best possible mix of different types of housing, rental and absorption rates, and community amenities, Dickenson says.
She says DSP initiated the study at the request of the U-District advisory board, which includes representatives from a number of key stakeholders who are providing the funds for the housing analysis.
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