Spokane Journal of Business

Momentum in Kootenai County expected to carry into 2020

Significant projects planned or underway help sustain economy

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Momentum from a decade of economic growth in Kootenai County is expected to carry over into 2020 with a mix of developments recently underway or planned for the coming year.

The Coeur d’Alene City Council last month approved an urban renewal plan and formed a district called the Health Corridor surrounding the Kootenai Health Campus, which is centered at 2003 Kootenai Health Way, southwest of the U.S. 95, Interstate 90 junction.

As an urban renewal district, the Health Corridor will have a 20-year funding mechanism via tax increment financing for public improvements and amenities within the congested area.

“We will kick off that new district initiative in January,” says Tony Berns, ignite cda executive director.

One of the first orders of business for the Health Corridor will be a traffic study. “We’re working with the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization, Kootenai Health, and other stakeholders to rationalize parking solutions,” Berns says.

In the Midtown district, which is concentrated along Fourth Street north of the city center, a development team is working on plans for a mixed-use building to complete a revitalization effort on the 800 block of Fourth.

The development will include at least one three- or four-story, mixed-use building with apartment units and ground-floor retail space.

“It’s looking very positive and has support of the neighborhood,” Berns says.

On the west edge of Coeur d’Alene, public access improvements are underway on 47 acres of city-owned land at the former Atlas Mill site, where a mixed development is planned to include hospitality, residential, and retail uses, Berns says. Ignite cda has issued requests for development proposals, and responses are due Dec. 20. “We hope to have some development there in 2020,” he says.

Post Falls city administrator Shelly Enderud says she expects housing construction will continue at a brisk pace in 2020. The city issued over 500 building permits for single-family homes for two consecutive years and has issued permits to construct more than 500 apartment units this year.

“Both of these are anticipated to continue at these higher levels for 2020,” she says.

Specific construction projects anticipated to begin in Post Falls in 2020 include a two-year, $48 million widening project on state Route 41 from Mullan Avenue to Rathdrum.

Also, a Maverick Station, currently in the permitting stage, is planned for the northwest corner of the state Route 41 and Mullan Avenue. A Sherman Williams paint and Hardwick Hardware store both are under construction just southwest of the Maverick site. All three retail operations are expected to open in 2020, Enderud says.

On the west side of town, construction is expected to begin in 2020 on a $49 million, 64-bed veterans home to be located south of Interstate 90 in the Riverbend Commerce Park.

North of I-90 in west Post Falls, United Parcel Service is working on a distribution facility that’s expected to open in 2020.

Sam Wolkenhauer, Post Falls-based regional labor economist for the Idaho Department of Labor, says he’s looking for 2020 to be similar to 2019 in terms of job growth despite a tight labor market.

While the Kootenai County unemployment rate has hovered consistently around 3.5%, high levels of in-migration helped total employment increase by 2.5% above 2018 levels, Wolkenhauer says. The Labor Department’s employment forecasts suggest that job growth between 1.5% and 2% is feasible for the coming year, he adds.

Home values in Kootenai County continue to rise as new residents arrive from higher-priced markets, fueling a continuing construction boom, which has used up all the available construction labor, he asserts.

“Barring shocks to the national economy, which are very difficult to predict, local conditions seem poised to give us a very familiar story in 2020,” Wolkenhauer says. 

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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