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No tower in park, board says

Tue., July 4, 2006

The president of the Spokane Park Board wants one thing to be perfectly clear: There’s no way the board will allow a developer to build a 14-story tower at the edge of Riverfront Park.

The YMCA announced last week that it had agreed to sell its near-acre of riverfront land to developer Mark Pinch, who plans to build a 150-foot condominium tower there. Pinch proposes 60 to 80 units starting in the $300,000 range. However, the city of Spokane has a 30-day window in which to match Pinch’s $5.3 million offer, and Park Board President Frank Knott said the board will figure out a way to do so.

“That’s a definite,” Knott said. “Let there be no doubt that we are going to exercise our right of first refusal.”

In addition, Mike Stone, the city’s parks and recreation director, said the purchase and sale agreement between the YMCA and Pinch contains so many “contingencies and assumptions” that it would be impossible for the Park Board to respond in 30 days. Stone said the Park Board will ask for more time. The board also plans to speak with city attorneys before responding to the YMCA.

“Some of the contingencies we see in there, the Park Board is the body that they would have to deal with on resolving these,” Stone said. For example, he said, the only vehicle access to the property is through a lease with the Park Board. The board would have to waive that or consent to renegotiate it with the developer for the sale to go through, he said.

Knott said there are two chances of that happening: “Zero and none.”

Pinch and YMCA President Rig Riggins could not be reached for comment Monday.

Stone said the Park Board is investigating ways to match the offer, including borrowing money from a city utility fund, using the parks department reserve fund, issuing limited general obligation bonds (also known as “councilmanic” bonds), getting a loan, or seeking help from investors.

Stone and Knott emphasized that anything the board does to finance the purchase would not restrict existing programs.

The parks department has received four e-mails from members of the public about the proposed sale, two in favor and two opposed, Stone said.

If the Park Board succeeds in buying the land, Stone said, it will open the YMCA building up to the public in the short-term to help address the city’s shortage of indoor swimming pools.

Long-term, Stone said, the building would be torn down and the land would be converted to park land.

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