Spokane Journal of Business

Post Falls core draws interest

Resort developers, others eye former L-P mill site

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POST FALLSThe downtown core of this quiet community is poised for a regeneration, as development plans for the former Louisiana-Pacific Corp. lumber mill site begin to take shape and the city officials look to hinge other nearby development around what happens on the site.

Gary Young, the city of Post Falls planning and building director, says he understands that major resort developers have shown interest in the mill property. Young believes the site is well suited for a mixed-use development that could include a hotel and convention facility similar to the Coeur dAlene Resort, specialty retail shops, and high-end residential condominiums. The views and the water frontage lend itself to an upper-scale-type development, Young asserts.

Post Falls developer and hotelier Bob Templin adds other possibilities to the list of potential of users, including a corporate headquarters building, a department store, and a specialty grocery store, such as Spokane-based Rosauers Supermarkets Huckleberrys markets. Also, the Kootenai County Convention & Visitors Bureau says the site might be appropriate for a specialized conference center geared toward corporate meetings.

The 30-acre mill site sits to the west of Spokane Street, Post Falls main downtown thoroughfare, and runs west along the Spokane River nearly to a Washington Water Power Co. dam. On that expansive property, city officials, Templin, and L-P officials envision a development that would define Post Falls downtown and lead to other projects there.

Theres been lots of interest in the property, including some from large players, small businesses, and governmental agencies, says Doug Anderson, an L-P attorney in the companys Hayden Lake, Idaho, office who is working on plans for the property. Thats the place to be from what they see, he says.

Study under way

Currently, L-P is about six to eight weeks away from completing a feasibility study to determine the best uses for the old mill location, Anderson says. That study, which is being conducted by Adams & Clark Inc., of Spokane, began about six weeks ago, he says.

Among other things, the study will lay out a variety of options for developing the property and will assess the value of the site and the utilities and services that are there, Anderson says.

The company also previously had an environmental analysis done on the site, he says, adding, Were fairly comfortable its a clean site.

Louisiana-Pacific already has ruled out some uses for the land, including industrial development or landfills, he says, adding, Its much too valuable for that.

In addition, he says, a mall probably wouldnt be built there, either, since there are several other mall-type properties in the surrounding area.

A development on the site, however, could include some public access to the riverfront, he adds.

Anderson says that rather than develop the property itself, L-P likely would sell the property to a developer or take on a partner that would help develop the site. We typically dont do this, he says. Wed need to get some help.

Regardless of who develops the site or what is constructed there, Anderson says Louisiana-Pacific plans to ensure that the project is done well.

We want to create a real benefit to the city and a legacy for L-Ps presence there, he says. We definitely want to have a first-class project there.

Templin owns two adjacent properties to the mill site, encompassing a total of seven acres. That land, he says, could make the area even more attractive to developers. His properties along with the L-P site include the entire frontage along Spokane Street all the way from the river to Interstate 90. There cant be too much wrong with that location, Templin says.

Currently, he says, he has no specific plans for his properties, which are mostly vacant. Our property is in limbo, he says. Were waiting for the outcome of the L-P study.

A downtown renewal

The closure of L-Ps lumber mill, which occurred in late 1995, offers a unique opportunity to help Post Falls develop a true downtown, says the city of Post Falls Young.

We want to redevelop this area as the heart of the city, Young says. Right now, there is essentially no core to the community.

A large development at the L-P site and surrounding property could serve as an anchor for a refurbished downtown, he says. Besides what is developed in that area, Young envisions other parts of downtown featuring government and civic buildings, retail businesses, and cultural and arts facilities.

The downtown, including the L-P site and the Templin properties, also has been named an urban renewal district, which could be a boost to development, Young says. The district was designated by a Post Falls urban renewal agency, which was given that authority by the state of Idaho.

Under Idaho law, tax-increment financing can be used to pay for infrastructure improvements in an urban renewal district, he says. In this case, tax-increment financing would work like this: revenue bonds would be sold to pay for infrastructure work and additional tax revenue created by new development in the district would then be used to pay off the bonds, Young says. Before bonds are sold, an economic study would be done to determine how much work could be paid for by an expected increase in taxes, he says.

Meanwhile, the former mill site may be appropriate for a conference center with adjoining exhibit space, says Nancy DiGiammarco, the county convention bureaus executive director.

She says the bureau is investigating whether the county has a need for such a facility, what the best location for it would be, and how such a facility could be paid for. The organization hopes to bring in a consultant within the next month or so to help with such an evaluation, she says. Besides the L-P site, other possible locations for a conference center include the Coeur dAlene Greyhound Park and the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, she says.

A conference center is somewhat different than a convention center, DiGiammarco says. Conference centers are geared more toward corporate events, such as board meetings or annual meetings, rather than conventions and trade shows, she says. They have hard-surface tables and comfortable office-type chairs, instead of hard chairs and fold-up tables, she says.

DiGiammarco says she believes Kootenai County needs such a facility because it doesnt have stand-alone meeting spaces, and the meeting spaces available in establishments such as Templins Resort or the Coeur dAlene Resort arent always large enough to accommodate groups. Additional meeting spaces could help the area, since demand for such space is usually highest during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, when tourism in North Idaho is low.

  • Marlene Mehlhaff

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