Spokane Journal of Business

East Valley SD readies tech plans for former Army center

Government's property transfer to school district could wrap up by June

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East Valley School District could take control of the former Walker U.S. Army Reserve Center, located at 3830 N. Sullivan, by June or earlier, based on an estimated timetable of a governmental process to transfer the surplus property.

The district plans to turn the 10-acre site and a 40,000-square-foot building there into a technical and career education facility that could involve a public-private partnership with nearby businesses. The property is located just north of the huge Spokane Business & Industrial Park, at 3808 N. Sullivan.

John Glenewinkel, EVSD superintendent, says the facility the district envisions there would complement the new Spokane Valley Tech, at 115 S. University, which is a technical and career learning center partnership among Valley and Freeman school districts.

"We're in partnership with the Spokane Valley Tech program, and we don't see this as being anything but an enhancement of that program and an ability to expand," Glenewinkel says. "Our goal would be to have agreements that mirror the agreements with Spokane Valley Tech, to where (Walker) would be open to all students in the partner districts."

Glenewinkel says he was notified last month that the Walker property transfer is expected to be completed by early summer 2013, as final documents are being wrapped up between the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Education.

A public comment period on the proposal for the Army to transfer ownership of the former reserve center property was scheduled to end Nov. 18.

"Our goal, assuming it's within the guidelines of our plan, is to form a partnership with entities within the industrial park so we could do a really robust technical and career education program," Glenewinkel says.

If the center proceeds as planned, EVSD has proposed use of the facility by 35 full-time staff and about 500 students, with up to 350 students in attendance at any given time.

The Spokane Business & Industrial Park, which is sometimes called The Park, is owned and managed by Crown West Realty LLC and has many tenants. In 1996, Crown West bought the former Naval supply depot, which has more than 70 buildings ranging in size from 1,200 to 270,000 square feet. It has more than 4.5 million square feet overall and over 600 acres of developable land, its website says.

To secure a public transfer of the Walker property, EVSD had to submit a plan for its use, which was approved as a technical and career center, Glenewinkel says. Attempts by the district to acquire the property date back about seven years, he adds, but the formal public conveyance process started in earnest around 2008.

"Because of the plan we submitted, the department of education is willing to give us a 100 percent public benefit conveyance, which means no cost to the district," he says. "But it placed limitations on how we would use the property."

He adds, "In the seven years since effectively it's been surplused by the Army, there's been some water damage. The Army has gone in and fixed that. We'll have to do a pretty rigorous examination of what the condition of the building is."

The new Armed Forces Reserve Center at Fairchild Air Force Base was completed in 2010 as a replacement for the Mann Hall Army Reserve Center in Hillyard, and the Walker Army Reserve Center in Spokane Valley.

Glenewinkel says he hopes EVSD staff will be able to inspect the condition of the Walker center closely by early next year. The district has $250,000 in a capital improvement fund set aside toward anticipated renovation of the facility, but the district doesn't know if that is still a reasonable amount, he says.

The EVSD plan says the center could provide several programs, with considerations including agri-science, biotechnology, manufacturing science, culinary arts, and emerging green technologies. At one point, the district also considered moving its administrative offices to the Walker property from 12325 E. Grace, but that proposal is less likely right now, Glenewinkel adds.

"I doubt that is really still the plan because we've been able to consolidate space at our middle school, and looking forward, we really have to reevaluate what our options are," he says. "It hasn't been ruled, but it's probably less of a consideration now."

The district also is considering a possible move of its administrative offices to space now available at East Valley Middle School, located at 4920 N. Progress, and the feasibility of selling its 11,000-square-foot administrative building near Pines, Glenewinkel says.

"We're looking at options, perhaps selling it and consolidating space," he says.

Meanwhile, Spokane Valley Tech is proceeding as a recently launched collaboration of the Central Valley School District, which is the host district, and East Valley, West Valley, and Freeman school districts. The center offers career and college readiness beyond programs available at high schools or at the NewTech Skills Center, at 4141 N. Regal, which is operated by Spokane Public Schools.

Blew's Construction Inc., of Spokane Valley, earlier this year won a $1.6 million contract to remodel the 51,500-square-foot former Rite Aid building at the southeast corner of University Road and Sprague Avenue into the new skills center. At temporary school facilities, Valley Tech is already offering an advanced aerospace and manufacturing course, as well as sports medicine. It also will have cosmetology, fire science, biomedicine, and engineering courses.

Glenewinkel says EVSD likely will seek public-private partnerships for the Walker facility that could involve building programs, supporting facility improvements, or developing a shared facility, Glenewinkel says. "We need to look at what the (property) conveyance will allow, though," he adds.

He says, "We are open to any ideas that make sense. If we have this resource, this asset, we want that students can get as much as we can pull into it."

Treva Lind
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