U-City getting a facelift

University City shopping center in Spokane Valley is undergoing $1 million in improvements designed to give the old portion of the mall a fresh look and better access.

“We need to get it done and we’ll get it done between now and next spring. Then we’ll see some revitalization of this,” said Orville Barnes, property manager for U-City Mall.

When finished, the mall will have a freshly paved thoroughfare connecting Appleway Boulevard and Sprague Avenue, landscaping and decorative lighting for pedestrian walkways, Barnes said.

U-City Mall is owned by University City Inc., which includes the Harry Magnuson family. The company also owns the old Rite Aid Pharmacy building across University Road.

Barnes said the company plans to spend another $1.5 million re-developing the former Rite Aid building, which sat vacant for five years, but was recently freed up from a longtime lease.

“We’ll change the entire look of the exterior of that building. When we get through it will look like a new building,” Barnes said.

The company hopes to get started on that part of the project in the next two months.

Barnes said the biggest challenge in redeveloping University City is transforming property designed as an indoor mall into a modern retail and business complex. The mall was built in 1960s and expanded in the 1970s.

About six years ago, a new Rosauers supermarket was built on the east end and several retail spaces were added.

Plans for a thoroughfare connecting Appleway and Sprague began nearly four years ago, when a large building between the old J.C. Penney location and Percy’s Café Americana was removed. The gap in the mall sat until this past August, when the project moved forward.

The thruway and fresh look will open the door to re-developing vacant buildings on the west end of the mall into retail and office spaces. University City Inc. plans to develop facades that front southward on Appleway and suites will be built to specifications, Barnes said. He expects the project to be completed in 2006.

“We’re going to be a mixed-use operation here when we’re done,” he said.

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