Spokane Public Schools says it expects to take control of the former Mann Hall Army Reserve Center property in Hillyard later this year and has short-term plans to use the facilities there for storage and offices for program support staff.
Longer term, the district says it might look at using the property, located at 4415 N. Market, for an alternative high school. The property includes a 27,000-square-foot main building, a 10,000-square-foot shop building, and almost 6 acres of land.
It sits prominently at the south end of the main Hillyard business district where Market Street and Haven Street come together.
A public-comment period ended this month for the proposal for the Secretary of the Army to transfer ownership of the former reserve center to the U.S. Department of Education. Both agencies have indicated that transfer could occur by the end of August, says Kevin Morrison, a school district technical specialist who has worked on the project.
Once the building changes hands, Morrison says, the Department of Education will ask Spokane Public Schools to submit its usage plans.
"The Department of Education says I should be looking at a fall to early winter transfer to the district," Morrison says.
Once the transfer process is complete, the district can buy the site for about 20 percent of its value, which is expected to be between $200,000 and $400,000, he says.
The district plans to use the Mann center to store elementary science kits and for a band instrument distribution center now housed in separate facilities, Morrison says. The district also expects to move in support staff for those programs, as well as special-education counselors and employees for a district program that supports homeless students, he says.
The district also may use the facility for temporary storage of classroom items during some school remodel projects.
However, the district doesn't plan to occupy all of the available space there in the short term.
"The current shape of the building and condition does not allow us to occupy all the spaces," he adds.
He says the number of district employees who could be using the site would be about a dozen at a minimum.
The district doesn't plan to consider an alternative high school or other student educational uses until 2015, Morrison says, which is the earliest it will consider its next round of capital improvements and put any bond requests before voters. Creating an alternative high school at the Mann center would require major renovation and the funds to support it, Morrison says.
He adds that the school district board and public would need to review and give input on any such plans.
"We don't have the bond funding (now)," he says. "We do have some monies set aside for some basic updates to make the place compatible for short-term use."
"We'd have to do some work for occupancy," Morrison adds, but that it is expected to be minor work for immediate use. "I believe about $250,000 has been set aside to start bringing it up."
In 2007, Garco Construction Inc., of Spokane, began building a new Armed Forces Reserve Center at Fairchild Air Force Base, on the east side of Fairchild on the West Plains, as a replacement for the Mann center and the Walker Army Reserve Center in Spokane Valley.
The new facility was dedicated last August for use by several Army Reserve and National Guard units. However, a complete transition from the Mann center has progressed slowly, Morrison says.
Dale Strom, a city of Spokane planner, says the school district has agreed to a community request to put a statue or monument on a corner of the property in the future to mark a Hillyard community entrance.
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