Nation/World

Paul Sandifur’s Summit Project Very Promising

What wealthy business entrepreneur C. Paul Sandifur Sr. seemed to feel he lacked and I sensed as a newsman that he so relentlessly sought, he now has - acceptance.

The poor boy from Oregon who made it big in Spokane is in the arms of his maker.

Sandifur, 92-year-old founder of Metropolitan Mortgage and Securities Co., a billion-dollar empire on paper, and his wife, Evelyn, 82, died June 2 in an auto accident.

The couple contributed much to this community.

In his quest for acceptance, Sandifur, who borrowed a $10 business grubstake to get started in Spokane, founded The Met theater for the performing arts, elevating the culture of the city.

But for me, his most impressive legacy, whether or not it gets built, is, of all things, a real estate project. The Summit.

The Summit is designed to be Spokane’s first urban village, combining business, dwellings, workplaces, offices, retailing, government, and all the trimmings on the north bank of the river west of Monroe. It could spark and anchor a revival of the downtown neighborhood, injecting families and vitality and round-the-clock activity.

This is a dynamite development.

But even more striking to me was Sandifur’s commitment to “doing it right.”

A few years ago, I wrote a column, without consulting Sandifur, which commended Metropolitan Mortgage on the concept of The Summit project. Sandifur phoned the same morning the article appeared.

He asked if he could step across the street from his office at Metropolitan, which directly faces me outside my windows as I write this column.

Sandifur could be demanding and cantankerous if the occasion warranted - I figured I was in for a chewing.

Instead he wished to shake hands.

I had, he said, written very well about the project, what it could mean to downtown, and the company’s determination to ask about, listen to, and accommodate where possible the needs and desires of the community.

I said there was no need for thanks - I had good reason to believe what I wrote.

“Thank you for believing in us,” he said. “I promise, I won’t let you down.”

He hasn’t.

I just hope The Summit works out as he intended.

Another business friend in the news last week was Ric Odegard, retiring senior executive and the most active community representative of Washington’s largest bank.

I’ve never gotten a loan from him. Seafirst isn’t even my bank. And it sounds funny to say it. But Ric Odegard is my favorite banker, because of what he stands for in business and in the community.

He cares.

Bank brass are supposed to belong to as many organizations as manageable. It’s good for business because of the contacts. It’s good for the bank’s image, because it implies that the community matters. And it’s a write-off.

But unlike so many in business circles who belong to a plethora of community organizations, Odegard is a true believer in community service. In my mind, he stands out as a one-of-a-kind banker.

Not surprisingly, Seafirst is appointing two executives to replace him.

Also, it’s no surprise that in retirement this banker is going to pound nails and scrape paint for poor folk as an active participant in Habitat for Humanity housing projects.

There are bound to be some real housing bargains coming in the Tri-Cities, which frequently vied with Spokane the past few years as a national pacesetter in home price appreciation.

In Spokane, the tide turned this spring. Last month unit sales skidded 18 percent below the same month last year. Average price dipped 1 percent below the year-ago level. And this is with a healthy economy in Spokane, which is in a strong position to weather a declining national economy. So here at least the market seems sure to make a soft landing.

But the outlook in the Tri-Cities is nowhere as rosy. As late as a couple months ago, skyrocketing price increases continued to keep the Tri-Cities home market among the 10 hottest in America.

This, despite looming federal cuts that may slash Hanford employment nearly in half, from 18,750 top-paying jobs to possibly as few as 10,300 in the next couple years. The end is near.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review



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