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Plans outline CdA education corridor

Plans for Coeur d’Alene’s proposed education corridor – envisioned for a former 17-acre mill site North Idaho College plans to purchase – were unveiled Thursday.

A report released at the same time found that an education corridor would create double the economic impact of the former DeArmond mill property compared with private development. Consultant Jay Renkens described the education corridor as a way for North Idaho College and other institutions, including the University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College, to leverage resources and work together.

While the colleges already share facilities, Renkens said they had not shared visions and goals until now.

“You want to create a place that has high energy,” Renkens said.

The master plan for the education corridor proposes drastic changes to the area bordered by Lake Coeur d’Alene, the Spokane River, Northwest Boulevard and U.S. Highway 95.

Access points would be created on Northwest Boulevard at River Avenue – which would become the corridor’s main street – and at Hubbard Avenue, reducing traffic through the Fort Grounds neighborhood.

River Road would have pedestrian pathways on both sides and could include retail spaces such as coffee shops, restaurants and student bookstores, Renkens said. The idea: to create a place inviting to students as well as the community.

The main north-south road through the corridor, Hubbard Avenue, would have a wide median between lanes of traffic.

The plan does not include specific locations for facilities or specify which institutions would use them. A plan for financing the development has not been developed.

Renkens said that’s the next step.

So far, NIC’s board of trustees has approved tapping $2.4 million in previously uncollected property taxes, called forgone taxes, to help pay for the DeArmond site. Developer Marshall Chesrown has offered to sell the land to the college for $10 million.

The economic impact study, done by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., of Moscow, Idaho, compared the potential 10-year revenue impact of education use to the impact of private use. According to the consultant, the education corridor would have $18 million in economic impact; $9 million could be collected in property taxes on a private development over that time.

The corridor would also create jobs, increase earnings throughout the five northern Idaho counties and create opportunities for millions of dollars in additional state and federal funding, according to the study.

A panel of representatives from the colleges, the city of Coeur d’Alene and the Lake City Development Corp., Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal agency, answered written questions submitted by some of the 75 people who attended Thursday’s public meeting.

Questions were asked about developing a site around the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which is within the boundaries of the proposed corridor.

Renkens said plans call for screening the plant from view with walls, fences and trees.

NIC President Priscilla Bell and UI’s Larry Branen said the plant could be used for research and education.

One question addressed job prospects for the higher number of college graduates the corridor would produce.

Consultant Hamilton Galloway, of Economic Modeling Specialists, said having higher education opportunities available is a plus when recruiting businesses – and jobs – to the area.

“Companies look for locations where there are qualified people to go to work,” Bell said.

At least one person asked whether it makes sense to centralize the college programs, given rising gas prices.

While NIC is still exploring expansion in other areas – including Post Falls and Rathdrum – Trustee Mic Armon said many students are concurrently enrolled at NIC, UI and Lewis-Clark State College – and it’s important that they don’t have far to go between classes.

Armon said future forums will be scheduled. Dates for those forums have not been set.

Reach reporter Taryn Hecker at (208) 818-0054 or by e-mail at tarynh@spokesman.com.

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