Seven months after a woman died when her car fell from the River Park Square parking garage, construction will start to prevent future failures of the structure’s walls.
The city of Spokane approved the mall’s plans to make the improvements and issued a building permit for the work on Wednesday.
“It’s to start immediately,” said Rob McOmie, River Park Square’s general manager. “We have most of the materials ready to go.”
He said the mall hopes to have construction complete by the beginning of the holiday shopping season.
River Park Square is owned by the Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.
The actions were sparked by the death of Jo Ellen Savage, a Pullman woman whose car hit a barrier and fell from the structure’s fifth floor on April 8. Witnesses reported that her car was moving slowly when it collided with the wall, which collapsed.
Mall officials announced in early August that they planned to strengthen the barriers by attaching steel rods and plates to outside-facing walls and hoped improvements would be complete by the end of summer. Construction was delayed as the city examined a mall report about the condition of the garage and plans for the improvements. An engineer hired by the city to review River Park Square’s work, Randall LaPlante, disagreed with a few points in the mall’s engineering studies.
That prompted the city to ask for more information before approving the building permit.
In an Oct. 6 letter, Richard Dethlefs, the Seattle-based engineer hired by the mall, responded to each concern but mostly stood by his original conclusions. He stressed that construction will bring the garage walls up to 2006 building standards, regardless of the disagreements about details in the engineering report.
Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession said further conversations between the city and River Park Square in the last couple of days led to the city’s decision to issue the permit.
“It’s not that we just said ‘OK’ to the letter,” Hession said. The city staff is “satisfied now that whatever concerns they had have been resolved.”
River Park Square spokeswoman Jennifer West said the building permit allows construction to move forward as originally planned.
Last month, Safeco, which insures the garage, reached a settlement with the Savage family. Details have not been released.
Robert Rembert, who represents the Savage family, has said River Park Square’s plans to strengthen the walls were a factor that led to the settlement.