Spokane Journal of Business

Blood bank plans new, big facility

Organization to buy land near downtown, expects to launch $8 million project

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The Inland Northwest Blood Center has agreed to buy property north of the Spokane River near downtown, the first step in an $8 million project to give the organization a larger, more modern headquarters.

The blood center could begin construction of a roughly 55,000-square-foot building there as early as next summer, says Judy Young, the nonprofit organizations CEO.

Its board of directors earlier this week approved the purchase of about two acres of land north of Cataldo Avenue, between Calispel and Normandie streets, Young says. The new blood center will join other medical-industry buildings in that area, such as Spokane Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic PS, across Cataldo to the south, and the nearby Group Health Northwest Riverfront Medical Center.

The blood bank is buying the property from Spokane developer and builder Randall Ramey, of Premier Development Inc. Ramey says he assembled several different properties into one parcel and demolished several structures on the property before agreeing to sell the land to the blood center.

Northwest Architectural Co. is working with the blood center to design a new building, and Rameys other company, Ramey Construction Inc., will build the structure, Young says.

Inland Northwest Blood Centers board currently is considering several methods of paying for the project, including some form of debt financing, such as issuing bonds, or a fund-raising campaign, she says.

A new facility is necessary because the blood center has outgrown the building at 507 S. Washington that it has occupied since 1953, she says. That building, located on the South Hill near downtown, has about 22,000 square feet of space.

Quarters are so cramped at the current building that one office is located in a converted restroom, complete with tiles still on the walls. Moreover, about one-third of the blood centers 120 employees are housed in leased space south of the organizations main office, Young says.

We literally have no room to add any more activities, she says.

The real push for finding a new site, however, came when the blood center was required to sell to Spokane School District No. 81 some additional property on Stevens Street that the blood center was using for employee parking and for storage of its three blood-collection vehicles. The school district needed the land for eventual use in the expansion of Lewis & Clark High Schools campus. The blood center now leases the land, but eventually will lose access to it.

It essentially is half of our property, Young says. That probably prompted us to have these discussions about Where do we want to go in the future?

The blood center worked with Northwest Architectural Co. to come up with space requirements for a new facility, then sent out a request to more than 20 Spokane-area developers and property owners to see what parcels of property were available, she says.

Because the blood center does time-sensitive tests for its two biggest clients, Deaconess Medical Center and Sacred Heart Medical Center, the property had to be within 15 minutes of those hospitals, she says.

We looked at existing structures, too, Young says. The cost to renovate the buildings the organization looked at, however, exceeded the cost of building a new facility.

About 50 percent of the new building will be laboratory space, which has special requirements for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, among other things, she says.

The Inland Northwest Blood Center collects blood from more than 20,000 volunteer donors per year, and provides more than 34,000 units of blood to 27 hospitals, clinics, and transfusion services in the Inland Northwest. The organization also provides other services, such as separating platelets, plasma, and stem cells from whole blood, and matching tissue between transplant patients and potential organ donors.

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