With no place else to go, leaders of Spokane’s Marketplace pleaded Wednesday with their former landlord for a 15-year lease. They went away with nothing more than kind words and wishes of good luck.
The Spokane Joint Center for Higher Education board heard the appeal for a new lease on the Division and Riverside site the market used the past four years to sell crafts and food.
Last summer, the Joint Center decided it would not extend the Marketplace’s $10-a-year lease. The site, part of the Joint Center’s stateowned higher education complex, must be used to generate more income, state auditors have said.
With only two months before the market’s scheduled May 6 opening, the Marketplace is struggling to find a new home, said board president Tom Culbertson.
Last year, about 300,000 people shopped at the market. This year, organizers hoped to repair a badly leaking roof at the Division Street location and expand parking.
“This puts us in a really awkward situation,” Joint Center Chairman Dave Clack told Culbertson. “Not one person on the board here doesn’t appreciate and support the market and want it to succeed.”
But granting a 15-year lease would work against the interests of the state and complicate future development of the higher education park, he said.
The complex includes the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute. A building for Eastern Washington and Washington State university programs is being built, and one more is planned.
Culbertson said the board asked for the lease because it hasn’t found a new home. “We don’t really have enough money to pay someone fair market rent.”
The board also learned that Joint Center plans to use the old market location as a campus “gateway” had changed. Instead, the Joint Center wants to lease it for commercial use.
Clack said the Joint Center’s executive committee might take up the market’s lease request later. But he said the complicated issue might not be discussed until the board meets in June.
Culbertson said the Marketplace is willing to pay more than the $10 annual rent it had paid before. The market board hoped to make repairs and improve the building and apply those costs against future rent.
“When we try to solicit donations from donors, we find it very hard if we don’t have something like a longterm lease,” he said.
The market continues its search. “I’m always staying optimistic,” Culbertson said. “We’ll find something out there in the next two months.”