January 14, 2005 in Business

Chesrown closes on Summit property purchase

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

Developer Marshall Chesrown has closed on the purchase of the 77-acre Summit property north of downtown Spokane and plans to break ground on April 1.

He envisions a mixed-use development that would follow the same basic plans hatched by Seattle firm Nitze-Stagen and Spokane’s Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities, prior to the latter company’s bankruptcy.

“This site deserves a first-class development,” said Chesrown, who bought the riverfront property at a Metropolitan bankruptcy auction for $12.8 million. “It’s irreplaceable land.”

However, the property will no longer be called the Summit site. Before he breaks ground, Chesrown said he’ll unveil the property’s new name and design. Possible influences could include the area’s Native American heritage or its history as a railroad yard, he said.

The existing planned unit development allows for about 1,000 residential units and about 1.5 million square feet of commercial space. Chesrown said the residential units will range in size and cost and will include condominiums and town homes. The commercial space will initially focus on retail, considering the glut of office space clogging downtown Spokane’s market.

Though contaminated dirt must be cleaned up and carted away, Chesrown expects the first structures to go up this year. He’s met with city officials, members of the West Central Neighborhood Council, representatives of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and with people promoting development of the Spokane River Gorge.

“Finally our neighborhood is going to be recognized as the jewel that it is,” said Brenda Corbett, chairwoman of the West Central council. “I just am tired of seeing contaminated barren land. I’m looking forward to the cleanup. I’m looking forward to the development.”

Chesrown said he doesn’t plan to break the property up into chunks and sell it off because he’d lose control of the land. In addition, he said any tenant that would require a large surface parking lot would be an inappropriate use for the property.

One missing component for the property is mass transit — a way of moving residents from one side of the river to the downtown, he said. One possible solution, he said, is the city’s gondola, which provides tourists with scenic views of the Spokane River Falls traveling back and forth from Riverfront Park to just below the Monroe Street Bridge.

“The landing pad of the gondola is right on the corner of our property,” Chesrown said. “There are opportunities there.”

That kind of thinking delights Tom Reese, the city’s economic development advisor.

“Imagine how cool that could be,” Reese said. “It would be one of those big audacious ideas that’s just crazy enough to have legs. What a great marketing tool for him and the city.”

Mike Edwards, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership and a member of the planning team for the Spokane River Gorge project, said Chesrown understands how important it is to develop the gorge and connect recreational opportunities to the property.

“Lots of people living there is good for the development of the Spokane River Gorge and we think that opportunity is good for those who are making investments in the site,” Edwards said. “We think it’s complementary.”

Chesrown said connecting to the Centennial Trail is a “huge, huge” attribute of the site.

“It’s already incorporated into our design. The whole Gorge Park project, the Centennial Trail, this property, are all going to enhance each other,” Chesrown said. “It has a lot to do with why I bought the property.”


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