Spokane City Council dedicates $430,000 in public dollars to Catalyst building in University District

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

(As reported in The Spokesman-Review by Kip Hill)

Plans for a bioscience hub near the pedestrian bridge taking shape over the University District received a boost from the city’s piggy bank this week.

The Spokane City Council on Monday committed $430,000 for street improvements, water service and other infrastructure to serve the Catalyst building, a planned development spearheaded by Avista Corp. scheduled to break ground this fall.

The five-story, 163,000-square-foot structure that will be built on lands owned by the utility near the south end of the University District Gateway Bridge received the largest economic incentive offered to date by the city, Council President Ben Stuckart said.

“This shows the strength of our incentive,” he said.

Other downtown projects, all of them backed by private developers, have recently received money from a program known as “projects of citywide significance.” Created in 2015, the program tasks members of the council and the administration to evaluate development projects competing for $2 million in city money raised through the refinancing of bonds, which was completed in 2017.

Since then, the city has awarded $83,240 to the developers of the Otis Hotel to cover some of the costs of filling vaults beneath the sidewalks surrounding the historic building. The city also gave $171,127 to the group behind the rebuilding of the Wonder Bread building on Post Street near the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena to bury utility lines leading to the estimated $12 million development.

The Catalyst building, which in addition to anchor tenant Eastern Washington University also will have office space for Avista as well as Katerra, the firm producing the laminated wood product that will be used to build the structure, received high marks in the city evaluation of the project. The building is expected to cost at least $50 million to build, create more than 500 jobs with starting salaries above a livable wage and generate more than $1 million in revenue during its first three years of operation. The building is scheduled to be completed in April 2020.

Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke said interest in developing the area south of the planned pedestrian bridge justified the city’s pursuit of that project, which had been panned by some as too costly because of the economically depressed areas surrounding Sprague Avenue.

“People were afraid this was going to be a waste, that this would be a bridge to nowhere, and now we have a bridge to a new community,” Burke said.

The council voted 6-0 in support of the funding for the Catalyst building. Councilman Breean Beggs was absent.

About two-thirds of the new building already has been leased, said Allie Teplicky, development manager for the project with McKinstry Co., the mechanical contractor that is a partner on the project.

“We’re excited the city has given us the funds,” Teplicky said. “They will help build out the right of way leading up to the project.”

About three-fourths of the money set aside for the project will come out of the city’s dedicated fund for projects of citywide significance. An additional $125,000 will come from sales and property tax collections within the University District to build a larger water line beneath Riverside Avenue to serve the property.

The building is just one of a series of planned projects on 5.5 acres of land owned by Avista near the bridge’s south landing.