A four-story office building along the Spokane River could become the newest addition to the branch college campus at Riverpoint.
At a meeting in Spokane, the state Higher Education Coordinating Board on Wednesday approved a purchase option for the Riverpoint One building just east of Division Street.
“Don’t expect to see professors’ offices popping up there quickly,” said Terry Novak, director for the Riverpoint Higher Education Park.
Acquisition of the building is part of a long-range plan to centralize college health-science programs at Riverpoint.
The Riverpoint One building currently has private tenants with leases running through the year 2002. They include Pitney Bowes, U.S. West Communications and Moloney & O’Neill, Inc.
Initially, the building would be owned and operated by the state’s General Services Administration until the college programs are ready to move in.
The Joint Center for Higher Education in Spokane would eventually take control of the building.
The branch campus would occupy the building gradually as tenants move out, Novak said. Professors’ offices and a library are the two primary uses envisioned for the building.
Approval of a separate $29 million health sciences classroom building is being sought from the Legislature.
Lawmakers will have to approve the purchase of Riverpoint One during the upcoming session this winter, or the option will expire.
The option is expected to cost about $50,000. It allows the state to reserve an interest in buying the property until the Legislature adopts a new budget next winter.
The sale price is $7.5 million. Another $950,000 would be spent on remodeling for the colleges.
That compares with an estimated $11 million cost for a new office building of the same size, Novak said.
Riverpoint One has 61,000 square feet of office space, and the building is on three acres.
The developer of the building, Hillman Properties of Pittsburg, is being reorganized by its parent company, Goldman Sacs, which is forcing the sale now, Novak said.
The Riverpoint Higher Education Park is a joint college campus housing programs from Eastern Washington University and Washington State University in Spokane.
A separate request for design and construction money for the $29 million health sciences classroom building was not included in the Higher Education Coordinating Board’s budget recommendation to the governor.
The health sciences classroom building would go on land on the south side of Riverpoint Boulevard across from Riverpoint One.
The board’s budget recommendation already includes nearly $1 billion worth of construction and modernization projects on college campuses statewide.
Marc Gaspard, executive director of the higher education board, said the health sciences building in Spokane so far is not a high enough priority.
The state is facing great demands for other projects, such as branch campus construction in other cities, and a limited pool of money, he said.
In other action, but board approved a recommendation calling for tuition increases equal to the state’s growth of personal income, forecast to be about 3 percent a year.
The board also sided with university officials who want the option of levying an extra 1 percent tuition charge that could be enacted by individual universities for programs on each campus.
“The total level of tuition growth ought to be restrained,” Gaspard said.