Spokane Journal of Business

Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery buys building, land on East Sprague for $1.3 million

Crisis nursery plans a new 30,000-square-foot facility

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The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, a Spokane-based nonprofit that provides short-term, 24-hour care for children in crisis situations, recently paid $1.3 million for a building and site on East Sprague Avenue, on which it hopes eventually to build a larger facility. 

The organization’s executive director, Amy Knapton Vega, says the center purchased the 1.6-acre site at 2230 E. Sprague from Zales Discount LLC. Ryan Towner and Dallas Lightner, both of NAI Black, brokered the transaction.

“The building was formerly a Safeway, and then a Bingo Hall, but it’s been empty for several years now,” she says. “Its former owners were actually looking to lease the space, but we were able to negotiate a purchase instead.”

 Vega says the organization has been seeking buildable land or a larger facility in which to expand its operations for several years now, having outgrown its current 12,000-square-foot space at 1004 E. 8th.

“We’ve been looking for a new space for about seven years now, evaluating the services we offer, and trying to plan for our needs,” she says. “About three months ago we put out a plea to the community specifying what we were looking for, and fortunately were able to find this location quickly.”

Vega says that because the organization had been saving money toward a new location for some time, it was able to purchase the site without needing to fundraise. 

“Our plan is to demolish the current building and put a new, 30,000-square-foot facility in its place,” she says. “We’re anticipating it will take between two and three years to raise the funds needed for a building.”

Founded in 1987 in memory of Vanessa Behan, who died from child abuse injuries at the age of 2, the nursery currently provides short-term, 24-hour care to children up to 6 years old, as well as parent education, crisis counseling, and basic childcare items like diapers and formula.

Vega says the organization is managed by a 15-member board of trustees, and supported entirely through private donations and contributions, with an annual budget of $1.8 million

She says the organization currently employs 58 full and part-time employees, and sees over 1,000 additional volunteers annually.

At the time of its founding, the organization was located in a renovated 1920s-era home, but by 1999, it had begun fundraising for its current facility at 1004 E. 8th, moving into the building in 2001.

Vega says the new site is planned to be the organization’s third—and hopefully final—location.

“This project isn’t so much about a new building as it is about gaining the capacity to be able to keep kids safe for years to come,” she says. “We evaluated what was most important, and decided the new site had to be focused on serving more kids, while still being easily accessible to families and visible to community.”

Vega says since its start in 1987, the nursery is estimated to have provided a safe haven for more than 90,000 children, receiving close to 5,000 requests for care annually. 

“Last year, we had 5,200 requests for care that we were able to meet,” she says. “However, we had to turn away an additional 3,300 requests due to a lack of capacity. Currently, we simply don’t have the room when they call.”

While it’s just begun mapping out a plan for the new facility, Vega says the organization is hoping the building will provide enough resources to triple its impact in the Spokane area.

“We’re exploring the possibility of being able to take on children over the age of 6 and children with medical needs,” she says. “We’d also like to have room to add more parenting classes and programs to help families.”


LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

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