Spokane Journal of Business

T.W. Clark Construction expands its scope into development

Company’s current work includes rental project it also owns in Post Falls

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-—Karina Elias
Steve Sunleaf, majority owner of T.W. Clark Construction LLC, says the company has about 100 employees between its two offices and typically handles about $120 million in projects annually.

Steve Sunleaf, majority owner of T.W. Clark Construction LLC, says the next growth stage for the Spokane Valley construction company will be in its development of its own projects.

The company currently is constructing the second project under its ownership, the 72-unit Sawtooth Flats apartment complex at 507 E. Second, in Post Falls. The $15 million development is comprised of three 24-unit, three-story buildings near Sawmill Grille & Spirits and the Spokane River, says Sunleaf.

Spokane Valley-based Miller Metge Architecture LLC, which does business as Miller Metge Design Group, designed the complex.

Commercial real estate company Kiemle Hagood, of Spokane, is the leasing agent for Sawtooth Flats. Tenants are expected to begin moving in on May 15.

“We saw Post Falls as a great opportunity,” says Sunleaf. “We are right in the downtown corridor, and we’re excited to be there and be part of the community. They’ve got a great master plan that we believe in.”

T.W. Clark will begin its third company-owned development in July, a 68-unit multifamily complex dubbed Empire Flats that will overlook the Spokane River at 10807 E. Empire, in Spokane Valley. Spokane-based Trek Architecture designed the $15 million project.

Sunleaf says the first company-owned development T.W. Clark completed was a 12-unit apartment complex in Spokane Valley, which sold for $3.4 million in September 2022. 

“It was a purposeful steppingstone,” says Sunleaf. “We did sell that one, but we did it to learn the process of development.”

Sunleaf says the two properties under development are currently under separate limited-liability corporations. 

T.W. Clark, which was established April 1, 1998, is headquartered in a 10,000-square-foot structure, built by the company’s founder and namesake Tom Clark, at 1117 N. Evergreen Road, in Spokane Valley. Sunleaf bought the company from Clark on April 1, 2013, after serving seven years as the company’s project manager. The company also has two minority owners.

T.W. Clark established an office in Billings, Montana, four years ago, says Sunleaf. Between the two locations, the company has about 100 employees, evenly divided. The company completes roughly 30 projects a year with a typical total value of $120 million.

Sunleaf says the Billings office eventually will become its own entity, a process that he estimates will take four years. He declines to disclose further details regarding the ownership transition at that office.

Throughout its 25-year history, T.W. Clark has focused mainly on commercial construction, and in the last couple of years, has started taking on more multifamily construction, which Sunleaf says is in high demand.

The company’s largest multifamily construction project is Magnesium Village, a 504-unit apartment complex in the Nevada-Lidgerwood neighborhood of North Spokane.

Palouse, Washington-based Hoist LLC is designing the apartment complex, according to pre-development plans. The construction value for the development is estimated to be between $34 million and $38 million, as reported earlier by the Journal.

Sunleaf says Magnesium Village, in which T.W. Clark doesn’t have an ownership interest, is a multiphase development that will take a few years to complete.

In Spokane Valley, T.W. Clark currently is constructing a new $7.6 million, 42,500-square-foot building for the Oaks Classical Christian Academy, located at 11711 E. 24th. Fusion Architecture PLLC, of Spokane, is the architect of record and is working with design partner Miller Metge Design Group.

Significant past projects include Brick West Brewing Co. located at 1312 W. First, in downtown Spokane. Spokane-based Trek Architecture designed the $750,000 renovation of the former Watts Automotive shop for Brick West.

“That was a very challenging project, to change it from a garage to a very cool brewery,” says Sunleaf.

In the Town and Country neighborhood of North Spokane, T.W. Clark was awarded the contract by Spokane Public Schools in early 2018 to build a $22.4 million replacement school for Linwood Elementary, located at 906 W. Weile. Integrus Architecture, of Spokane, designed the project. The 76,000-square-foot school includes 36 classrooms, a library, a gymnasium, and a multipurpose room with a stage. The school was completed in time for the 2019-2020 school year.

Sunleaf, 46, grew up in Mesa, Washington, a small farming community of 500 residents about 110 miles southwest of Spokane. He attended Washington State University, from which he received a degree in construction management. He was president of the Inland Northwest chapter of the Associated General Contractors in 2017 and has served as an adjunct professor in construction management at WSU.

Sunleaf says when he took over T.W. Clark 10 years ago, he wanted to be intentional about setting the company culture.

“I do a lot of reading of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius who say, don’t focus on the things you can’t control, focus on the things you can control. That’s a big philosophy I take in running my business,” he says.

Sunleaf says that is the mentality he took in stepping into development and ownership of multifamily projects.

“It’s the next step of diversification,” he says. “It comes down to controlling our destiny.”

In addition to this underlying philosophy, Sunleaf says other core values of the company include keeping a conscientious mindset and being reliable and adaptable.

When the pandemic emerged three years ago, the company was able to pivot and handle the change, he says.

“Our job is to put chaos back in order,” says Sunleaf. “Any business that can do that wins at the end of the day.”

Moving forward, Sunleaf says he has no plans of retiring early and hopes to continue working for years to come.

“I want guys and gals that have a growth mindset and understand there is opportunity if we focus on the things we can control,” he says. “I like what I’m doing, and as long as it’s fun, I’ll keep at it.”

Karina Elias
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Reporter Karina Elias covers the banking and finance industry. A California native, she attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. Karina loves salsa dancing, traveling, baking, cuddling with her dog, and writing creative fiction and non-fiction.  

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