Spokane Journal of Business

Park to get hotel, first plant

Nearly $40 million in work to be under way near airport by next spring

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Granite Investments LLC, the Spokane company that plans to develop a 152-acre high-technology park near Spokane International Airport, says it now has decided to build a $10 million, 120-room Hilton Gardens hotel in the development.

That project is to start in March, along with construction of a bank branch, a restaurant, and a previously announced $12.5 million office building. The developer also now plans by April to start work on a $15 million, 60,000-square-foot biotechnology production facility there for Spokane startup Biomedex Inc.

With those buildings and infrastructure work, nearly $40 million in construction could be under way at the new park by late next spring. Project spokesman Lowell McKee, a partner in Granite, says the park eventually could include buildings totaling 1.5 million square feet of floor space constructed at a cost of $200 million to $300 million.

Granite, which is owned by a group of investors that includes prominent Spokane developer Dick Vandervert, disclosed plans for the development last month. It had been working on the effort in collaboration with Biomedex, Avista Corp., other nearby property owners, and the Spokane Area Economic Development Council for about two years. The project is envisioned eventually to be part of a series of developments that could encompass several hundred acres.

The planned three-story hotel would be owned and operated by Granite under the Hilton Gardens name, and is expected to be open later next year, says Vandervert. It will be located along U.S. 2, near the northwest corner of the park. The planned 4,800-square-foot restaurant, for which a tenant hasnt yet been signed, will be constructed just to the west of the hotel, he says. Also fronting U.S. 2 will be the brick-and-glass office building, which will have 110,000 square feet of floor space and a bank branch.

Vandervert says he has reached a preliminary agreement with a bank that wants to occupy the planned bank branch, but declines to identify the bank until that institution has been able to file the appropriate regulatory applications needed to open the branch. The planned office building will be a replica of one that Vandervert Construction Co., another Vandervert enterprise, completed earlier this year at 609 E. Holland on Spokanes North Side.

All four of those buildings will be located near the entrance of the planned park, which is to be called The Pacific Northwest Technology Park. The development site is located on the south side of U.S. 2, just east of Boeing Co.s West Plains plant, and stretches from the highway south to the northern boundary of the airport. An extension of Flint Road from the highway to Airport Drive would serve as the parks western boundary and would provide some access to the park, but the developments main entrance would be located just east of the office building and would serve a host of other roadways within the park.

Biomedex, a young Spokane company that has launched a couple of biotech products of its own while trying to establish itself as a contractor able to help larger companies get products to market quickly, would lease space in the office building as well as the planned production facility.

Its plant, which is expected to be completed by next fall, is expected to be built along the western edge of the park, about halfway between the highway and the parks southern border.

Biomedex plans for the building to meet strict, U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection guidelines. To ensure the facilitys competitive usefulness, the company has hired two prominent Wisconsin-based companies to help engineer and design it. Those companies, Flad & Associates and Affiliated Engineers Inc., helped to engineer and design Immunex Corp.s planned Helix project, a 1.3 million-square-foot headquarters and lab complex in Seattle, which is expected to get under way soon, says Biomedex President George Coleman.

That (expertise) has always been a key part of what were trying to do, says Coleman. We can sit here in Spokane with plenty of expertise, but unless we get some of these substantial players behind us, when we go to the big customers we want to do business with, theyre going to laugh at us.

Coleman says that Biomedex will use the new facility to make the sanitizer products it sells to other biotech companies, as well as for contract processing and distribution of clinical-trial materials for biotech customers. Biomedex currently leases office and lab space in the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute just east of downtown.

Both Granite and Biomedex are marketing the rest of the park to other high-tech companies, and in Biomedexs case, it hopes to attract to the park big pharmaceutical and biomedical companies with which it could do business. Vandervert says he already is receiving inquiries from such potential tenants or land buyers.

Coleman says if there were any doubt about whether the biotech industry would be interested in the park, it was squelched with one recent phone call he received. He says a California biotech company called him after seeing a news report on the park posted on the Internet, and asked him how many acres he could put together if the company chose to open an operation here. Coleman says he told the company that the park is 152 acres currently, but that much more land is available adjacent and nearby.

The California company said it really was looking for about 330 acres. Who knows what will come of that, says Coleman, adding though that the call indicates just how much demand there is for such development space.

McKee says he expects the park to develop relatively quickly, and points to news reports from Western Washington indicating that there is much more demand for new space in that fast-growing region than theres land available to develop such space.

The Pacific Northwest Technology Park will be adjacent to hundreds of acres of developable airport land, and is nearby acreage owned by Avista Corp. and others that could develop their properties jointly in the future, organizers of the park say.

McKee says land in the park is zoned under a handful of different classifications, but the current zoning is compatible with at least the first phase of Granites project, including all five buildings it expects to start next year.

A preliminary site plan of Granites park shows many buildings, a significant amount of green space, and at least three large ponds. McKee says the ponds are being designed as an aesthetic feature, but also would serve both for groundwater collection and irrigation purposes. Government officials and developers have struggled in recent years with ways to deal with groundwater issues on the West Plains, due to geological features that hamper absorption of runoff.

Other people are battling to deal with the water; we want it, says McKee.

Vandervert Construction will be the general contractor on the initial phases of the development, and Russell C. Page Architects has prepared the site plan.

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