The city hearing examiner has approved the use of the old Ricardo Building at the southeast corner of Broadway and Monroe for a federal work-release center on the condition that it does not house sex offenders.
In a ruling issued last week, Greg Smith placed several other conditions on the use of the building, including the formation of a committee from the neighborhood to screen potential residents.
The project to convert the two upper floors of the building into 12 apartments for 45 residents is proposed by Allvest Inc., a for-profit company that operates release centers in Anchorage, Alaska, and Longview, Wash.
If Allvest receives the federal contract for the Spokane operation, it would spend $300,000 to upgrade the 101-year-old building and reconfigure the parking lot for 12 stalls.
Allvest Vice President Michael Dumovich said the firm would have wide latitude in which offenders it accepts. It does not plan to house sex offenders, Dumovich said.
Smith made that a condition of his approval.
While those living and operating businesses in the area expressed concerns about the center, Smith said there was no basis to deny the application.
In fact, Allvest made a case that the tenants pose less of a risk than the population, as they are monitored and face return to prison if they violate curfew or other rules.
“Except for the fact that these are persons who have been in prison, there was no evidence to show that the fears of the neighbors would be substantiated or have been substantiated for other facilities of this type,” Smith said.
The approval for the project would be reviewed in three years to examine whether it has had an adverse impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington D.C., said Allvest submitted one of a handful of bids for the Spokane release program, and a decision would be made by midsummer.
“It’s a Catch 22. We can’t get the contract until we have the zoning,” said Dumovich.
“We purchased the building as a contingent. If the contract weren’t awarded, we would have no need for the building.”