Spokane Journal of Business

Blockhouse project moves forward in Perry District

Work on $2M project could start this summer

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A year in the making, site work on the $2 million Blockhouse|Life “smart” housing development in the South Perry District is underway, with construction on the buildings expected to begin by July. 

Blockhouse is the brainchild of six businesspeople from a variety of industries in Spokane who came together last year with the vision of creating sustainable community development and affordable housing that could be built quickly and efficiently, says Matthew Collins, founder and principal architect of Uptic Studios.

The project will be located on nearly a half-acre site, at 1410 E. 10th, just east of South Perry Pizza and Perry Street Brewing.

Cross-laminated timber panels for the project are being manufactured at Vaagen Timbers LLC, of Colville, Washington, which is working to achieve structural certification required to sell CLT panels, Collins says.

Vaagen recently built a CLT press and plans to develop a factory for the assembly of the panels so walls could be delivered pre-painted and with plumbing already installed, which Collins says could shave months off a construction time.

Baker Construction & Development Inc., of Spokane, is the contractor on the project, and Uptic Studios Inc., also of Spokane, designed it. The Spokane office of DCI Engineers is the project engineer.

The building permits currently are under review by the city of Spokane. Collins estimates construction will be completed with units ready to occupy by fall.

“That’s the advantage of modular palletized systems … the construction and the install go much quicker,” he says.

The development will consist of eight residential buildings consisting of two townhouses, two duplexes, and four single-family homes, for a total of 5,600 square feet, according to the permit applications. Collins says there will be a total of 14 living units that will be either leased or used for short-term vacation rentals. 

“We’ve incorporated a lot of community input and strategic partners within the community to elevate what we’re doing,” says Collins. “We’ve been talking with Lime about it being a Lime juicer station, maybe even with electric vehicles.”

What makes the development “smart” is the incorporation of walls that integrate the utilities, appliances, and fixtures, which are centrally located for efficiency, Collins says. The prototype is still under development, he says.

“It has some pretty sophisticated technology behind it, so we can monitor energy consumption, water flow, temperature, and humidity to really enhance the environment that we’re developing,” he says.

The development group behind Blockhouse also includes Andy Barrett, chairman of Spokane Valley-based camp shelter manufacturer Berg Manufacturing Inc., and father and son team Dave Coombs and Cody Coombs, co-owners of Spokane development company DMC Properties.

Collins says the group has formed as a neutral third-party organization called the Spokane Sustainable Academy. The organization isn’t yet fully licensed but is working toward being incorporated as a nonprofit.

Other strategic partners include Washington State University, Avista Corp., Siemens Industry Inc., Vestis Systems Inc., PCI Renewables Inc., and The Toolbox.

Moving forward, Collins says the group plans to develop more housing.

“We’re identifying our next parcel, so we’re hoping by the time we break ground, we’re in design development for our next site,” says Collins. “So, our objective is to do one at a time, but to do it as quickly as we can without the wheels going off the bus.”

Natasha Nellis
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Reporter Natasha Nellis joined the Journal in May 2018 and covers real estate and construction. Natasha is an avid reader and loves taking photos, traveling, and learning new languages.

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