September 6, 2007 in Business

Worthy has big plans for airport property

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Worthy Enterprises LLC is doing extensive testing that will shape how 80 acres of craggy land near Spokane International Airport develops.

While long-term plans for the property could result in 900,000 square feet of office, retail, warehouse and storage space, in the end, Walt Worthy said, the scope and size of the project and the time it takes to build it out boils down to big rocks, soil composition and plenty of testing.

“We’ve been working on this for six weeks and still don’t have the engineering work done,” said Worthy, who redeveloped the Davenport Hotel and built the Rock Pointe office complex.

A lease agreement for the 80 acres, which is adjacent to Airport Drive and Spotted Road in the West Plains, was approved by Worthy and the airport’s board of directors. The land includes 4,000 feet that front along U.S. Highway 2, next to the Longhorn Barbecue. The lease awaits final clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The tentative agreement says that Worthy would lease the land from the airport for $100,000 a year or 6 percent of revenues — whichever is greater. The lease is for 50 years, and the developer would construct and own the buildings

Site work has begun on the first phase of the business park. Worthy plans to create about 300,000 square feet of mixed-use space in the next two years. Lease space would run $12- to $15-per-square-foot and would include free parking, he said. Some buildings could be sold.

Preliminary site work has begun on two single-story buildings that will be 45,000 square feet each and include parking areas with about 250 spaces. Worthy wants to have that leg of the project complete by early next year.

Todd Woodard, spokesman for the airport, said the airport board is delighted that Worthy plans to develop the property and the project “will clearly serve as a catalyst for the entire West Plains region.”

A traffic study was completed earlier this week, Worthy said, but needs to be reviewed by state and local governments. Extensive geological tests are still under way.

Worthy recalled noticing the property when he and his wife, Karen, returned from a trip to Florida. The large slice of vacant land was only six minutes from downtown, near the airport and highly visible.

“I thought, ‘I’m just amazed that no one has done anything with it yet,’ ” he said.

But the prime location has challenges. Much of the soil is silt and clay, he said, so there are drainage issues. Some of the large basalt rocks may need to be broken up with jackhammers or blasted with dynamite. Others, they will simply build around.

Like Rock Pointe, the office complex he developed at Washington Street and Boone Avenue, the final design will incorporate intriguing, but hard-to-build-around, rock formations.

“The harder it is to develop, the better it looks when you get finished,” he said.


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