Spokane Journal of Business

City Hall relocation mulled

Move could spur Summit project, make City Hall property available for other uses; Avista Corp. talks with officials

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City of Spokane officials have quietly been discussing the possibility of moving City Hall to Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Co.s Summit development site north of the Spokane Riverto jump-start that project, and perhaps to trigger use of the current City Hall downtown by the private sector.

Discussions are very, very preliminary, says City Councilman Jeff Colliton, who confirmed that the conversations have been held.

The city has been interested in seeing the Summit project developed for several years, Colliton says.

He says that since the 1995 Legislature refused to fund a proposed office complex there that would have housed various state agencies, the City Council has talked about policies or actions it might embrace to boost the project and to encourage the rejuvenation of the west end of the downtown periphery.

As for other uses for City Hall, Colliton says the city has been involved in discussions with Avista Corp., which owns the brick building just north of City Hall. He says that those talks, which started about a year and half ago, have touched on general topics, such as whether Avista might want to move its corporate headquarters or at least part of its corporate offices from their current location at 1411 E. Mission, and whether the City Hall building would have adequate space or parking. An Avista spokesperson couldnt be reached for comment.

The Summit site, a 76-acre property located on the north bank of the Spokane River west of Monroe Street, also was ruled out as a potential location for an expansion of the city-owned downtown convention facilities. Consultants studying the issue said the property wasnt within easy walking distance of downtown hotels and restaurants, and the citys Sports, Entertainment, Arts, and Conventions Advisory Board chose a site directly across Spokane Falls Boulevard from the citys current convention facilities for that expansion.

Colliton says, however, that the city has nothing against the Summit property or its owners.

Our intent is to do everything we can for Summit, he says. We want to help all developers here who are making efforts to rejuvenate the city core, he adds.

Preliminary discussions of a possible relocation of city offices to the Summit property began within the last year, Colliton says.

City Manager Bill Pupo says the possibility of such a move was discussed in a council briefing session about three months ago. There, council members talked about whether the current City Hall, at 808 W. Spokane Falls Boulevard, was the best use for that location, given the downtown redevelopment and anticipated retail boom, Pupo says.

Pupo says the city has had very general conversations with Mr. (Paul) Sandifur, president and CEO of Spokane-based Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities, about the Summit property as a potential site for a new City Hall, but hasnt discussed details. He says the city is still a long way from having any solid information about the potential size or cost of a new City Hall.

Pupo says the current 156,000-square-foot City Hall meets the space needs of the citys administrative departments for now. Dennis Beringer, city real estate manager, says the city also has office space in other buildings it owns, such as parks department offices at parks maintenance facilities and engineering offices at a building at Normandie Street and Sinto Avenue where the city has a fueling facility. It also owns offices at 814 and 824 N. Monroe used by city prosecutors and defenders and leases about 26,000 square feet of space in Monroe Court, at 901 N. Monroe, for the police department.

The Monroe Court lease costs about $400,000 annually, Beringer says.

Some of the scattered offices could be consolidated in a new building. Colliton says that money spent today for leases then perhaps could be applied to debt service on a new building and result in a long-term savings. It also could be beneficial to get the current City Hall property back on the tax rolls, he says, adding that a thorough rejuvenation of the entire downtown core area would benefit the entire city.

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