Evergreen Bioscience cluster’s plans crystallize
Potential site identified along river in U District; initial design startedJuly 6th, 2023
Evergreen Bioscience Innovation Cluster has selected a site in Spokane’s University District for its future headquarters, though those involved in the organization that wants to make Inland Northwest a magnet for life science companies say it could change in the near future.
The tentative site is located at 690 E. Front, east of the Washington State University Spokane Teaching Health Clinic and across the Spokane River from the Spokane Inland Empire Railroad Building, also known as the SIERR building.
Evergreen Bioscience board member Andy Johnston says the organization doesn’t have a formal agreement to purchase the site at this time, and it’s possible the project still could be built elsewhere. The site was chosen, he says, in order to start design work before losing one source of funding.
The envisioned 77,000-square-foot Evergreen Bioscience Innovation Building includes 55,000 square feet of leasable space spread through its four-story design.
Johnston says a key recent focus for the building’s layout is creating a balance of leasable space to common area to ensure the economic viability of the building. The Evergreen Bioscience team, consultants, architects, and others involved want to ensure an efficiently designed common area where people can congregate and collaborate in the shared spaces outside their labs without adding too much cost to the building, says Johnston.
“We want people to collide with each other outside their labs and share what they are working on, which can help incubate innovation and help improve the ecosystem,” says Johnston.
The groups’ aim is for 75% of the space in the building design to be leasable. With the amount of common space currently in the design, the leasable space stands at 71%, says Johnston, who is also the principal of Spokane-based Johnston Engineering PLLC.
“We’re going to keep working on making it 75%,” he says. “There’s still more to come.”
Evergreen Bioscience selected Spokane-based ALSC Architects PS to generate the initial renderings for the building, which has an estimated construction value of $40 million.
As reported by the Journal in April, Evergreen Bioscience was awarded $200,000 through the Washington state Department of Commerce Evergreen Manufacturing Growth Grant program. The funds were used to develop preliminary designs for an Evergreen Bioscience Innovation Building that will be the home to contract bioscience research and development and manufacturing companies with the capacity to accommodate up to 500 workers.
The deadline to use those funds was June 30, which gave members and volunteers of Evergreen Bioscience just shy of three months’ time to select an architect, a location, and determine the needs of the facility.
“Site selection is a long process, but we had to abbreviate it to fit this timeline, so more due diligence is required before we pick a final site,” says Johnston.
To generate renderings for the project, ALSC Architects formed a design group of six, plus a bioscience lab consultant, a bioscience manufacturing consultant, and a building cost-estimating consultant.
For the next phase of development, Evergreen Bioscience has applied for a matching $200,000 grant through the Health Sciences and Services Authority of Spokane County, which would fund the schematic design phase of the project in which other consultants, such as electrical engineers and structural engineers can begin their work, says Johnston.
HSSA board members will vote on the matching-funds request at the authority’s next meeting in September.
Johnston says Evergreen Bioscience also intends to apply for a $500,000 grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Tech Hubs Program, an initiative designed to drive regional technology and innovation-centric growth.
The application for the $500,000 grant is due Aug. 15 and is the first phase of funding for the Tech Hubs Program.
According to the Economic Development Administration, only consortia are eligible to apply for funding. A regional consortium can include academia, private sector, government, federal labs, and unions, among others. The EDA will designate at least 20 Tech Hubs across the country in phase one.
Johnston says the phase one grant will be used to hire staff for Evergreen Bioscience. The board will decide on the organization’s needs, but Johnston anticipates possibly hiring accounting and support staff, as well as a grant writer.
Once Evergreen Bioscience secures its staff, it then will focus on its strategy for applying for the second phase of the Tech Hub Program’s funding round which could distribute between $50 million and $75 million in funding to winning consortiums. The EDA’s notice for funding opportunity is expected to be released in the fall, says Johnston.
If Evergreen Bioscience can secure even the lower end of the second phase round of funding, it would pay for the entire cost of construction and leave a surplus for other uses, he says.
“Assuming we win the next phase, it could pay for a lot and have excess funds that could be used for community impact, like a startup investment fund to help the ecosystem,” says Johnston.
As previously reported by the Journal, advocates of Evergreen Bioscience aim to win a Federal Innovation Hub designation, which potentially can infuse the organization with up to $500 million in funding.