Spokane Journal of Business

U District receives federal brownfield sites grant

Dozen properties slated for evaluations soon

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The University District is poised to begin evaluation of potential revitalization efforts at 12 properties with a $600,000 grant the neighborhood recently received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Chris Gdak, Seattle-based senior principal of environmental services for Stantec Inc., says Spokane was one of 13 entities to receive funding for brownfield sites. 

The EPA defines a brownfield as a property that is or could have been contaminated by previous industrial or commercial uses, such as former gas stations or rail yards, and which could be expanded, redeveloped, or reused if the contamination is cleaned up. 

The EPA grant is intended to be used to inventory properties that could be redeveloped into commercial or residential properties that would benefit the community, if environmental contaminants could be cleaned up, Gdak says. 

University District CEO Lars Gilberts says, “Some things we’re specifically looking at are sites that would open up new development that would support higher education, especially the health and life sciences.”

Gdak says three sub-areas within the University District are slated for environmental studies to determine the severity of contamination: the northern area, near Gonzaga University; the central portion, around the shared satellite campuses of Washington State University and Eastern Washington University; and the area south of the University District Gateway Bridge. 

Gdak says the 12 properties have not yet been selected; identifying brownfield sites for cleanup will be the first step in the process of revitalization. 

Gilberts says some owners of University District properties had started development, but stopped when contamination issues were discovered. Others stopped due to assessment costs. 

The periphery of Gonzaga’s campus is “a hodgepodge” of commercial and industrial properties, Gdak says, especially along North Hamilton. 

“The U-District looks at the Hamilton commercial corridor as an opportunity to build a thriving, mixed-use development that will enhance the campus experience in the periphery of Gonzaga University,” Gdak says.

Just south from Gonzaga across the Spokane River, what was once a rail yard is now the campus Washington State University and Eastern Washington University share, Gdak says. 

Brownfield sites near that campus could be transformed into housing or commercial developments, Gdak says. 

The main focus, Gdak says, is the area extending south from the railroad tracks to I-90. With the University Gateway Bridge, and the $17 million Hub Building rising at the south landing of the bridge, Gdak says now is a good time to redevelop abandoned and underused properties along East Sprague. 

“There’s really a lot of opportunity to target specific properties and help figure out which catalyst sites can result in some investment in the south sub-area,” Gdak says.

The process of identifying the brownfield sites and analyzing the work that will be needed to clean the properties will take three years, Gdak says, and will formally begin in October.  

“We want to find interested private property owners or developers that want to take advantage of this funding opportunity to help improve the value of their properties and projects,” Gdak says.

Virginia Thomas
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Reporter Virginia Thomas has worked at the Journal since 2017 and covers the banking and finance industries. As a reporter, she loves learning about Spokane's many growing industries. She enjoys travelling with her husband, snuggling with her cats, and cross stitching.

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