Spokane real estate developers Dick Edwards and Pete Thompson are spearheading an effort to create a tax-increment financing district that would encompass about 2,000 acres of land on the West Plains.
Edwards says he and Thompson, both of Hawkins Edwards Inc., of Spokane, believe creation of the district could be a catalyst for increased business activity in the largely undeveloped area west of Spokane.
As envisioned, the irregular-shaped district would straddle Interstate 90 roughly from the area surrounding the Medical Lake interchange northeast to the southwestern border of Spokane International Airport.
We figure if we can go in and landscape and improve roads, were going to improve the neighborhood, he says. What were trying to do is master plan this thing. We want to get approval that this is the way to put in infrastructure there. Then weve got a road map for the area.
The way the economy is right now, we need to do things to create development momentum and attract new employers, Edwards says. If you generate some jobs, everybodys going to be better off. Thats what its all about.
He says Spokane County Commissioners Phil Harris and Kate McCaslin both have voiced support informally for the proposed district, which he would like the County Commission to approve within the next three months. The Spokane office of David Evans & Associates Inc. is doing the engineering work on the district, which still is in the preliminary stages, so financial details arent available yet, he says.
The Medical Lake interchange has been a focal point for development efforts over the last decade, though with only spotty success.
Nine years ago, Broadway Group, of Spokane, announced plans to develop a multimillion-dollar truck stop on property near the interchange and to move its flagship property, the Broadway/Flying J Travel Plaza, at Broadway and I-90, there. It later postponed those plans, however, citing several site-related obstacles that it said had arisen, and it never has revived them. Several other trucking-related businesses, such as Cummins Northwest Inc. and Spokane Freightliner Inc., have developed new facilities on nearby land and have moved their Spokane operations there.
Nevertheless, the pace of development activity thereand across most of the West Plainshas been much slower than economic-development advocates and commercial and industrial real-estate agents had expected it to be, particularly given the areas proximity to the airport and quick access to downtown Spokane.
Generally speaking, tax-increment financing allows a city or county to issue bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements in a defined development area, then use most of the resulting increases in property-tax revenues in that area to pay off the debt. After the debt is paid, those tax revenues would flow to the normal taxing authorities in that area.
The West Plains property is one of a number of sites here where the possible use of tax-increment financing has been explored since a new Washington state law allowing its use took effective in July 2001. The states first tax-increment financing district was created here in January, also on the West Plains, when the county commissioners authorized the issuance of up to $3.4 million in general obligation bonds to pay for roads, sewer lines, and other infrastructure improvements for the first phase of the Pacific Northwest Technology Park.
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