March 1, 2008 in HandleX

Officials mum on DeArmond site purchase

Erica F. Curless Staff writer
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Chesrown
(Full-size photo)

COEUR d’ALENE – Coeur d’Alene and local college officials are tight-lipped about how they will come up with $10 million to buy the key piece of property for a higher education corridor along the Spokane River.

“It’s something we’re still working on and can’t share,” said Tony Berns, executive director of Lake City Development Corp., the city’s urban renewal agency. “There are many facets on how it could come together and we are still working it out.”

Developer Marshall Chesrown told North Idaho College athletic boosters Tuesday that he remains committed to selling the DeArmond Mill site to a government entity for $10 million, meaning he won’t make a profit. Chesrown, the developer of The Club at Black Rock and Spokane’s Kendall Yards project, made the agreement in 2006 and at the time expected it to take more than two years to close the deal.

Chesrown said he has no involvement in the planning of the educational corridor that’s envisioned as an educational hub for the region – a place where students can earn different levels of degrees and access resourses from NIC, University of Idaho, Lewis-Clark State College, Boise State University and Idaho State University.

His role is to get the 17-acre mill property that’s adjacent to NIC annexed into the city limits and then sell it to a government entity, which is part of what the city and colleges are figuring out.

“My opinion is somewhere, somehow someone had to get (the mill) bought or it wasn’t going to happen,” Chesrown told about 75 people gathered at the Coeur d’Alene Resort for the booster meeting.

Chesrown has held preliminary talks with Coeur d’Alene about annexing the DeArmond Mill along with the former Atlas Mill property along Seltice Way. He eventually intends to develop the Atlas Mill property, which is adjacent to Riverstone, into a mixed-used development with homes, businesses and retail yet he said a sports arena or convention center isn’t part of the plan.

Coeur d’Alene Planning Director Dave Yadon said the city’s Public Works Committee is scheduled to recommend March 24 whether the City Council should consider annexing both mill properties. The council will then make a final decision on whether to consider the annexation in April. If the council agrees, then the official annexation process will begin.

Berns said he expects a Portland consulting firm to present the educational corridor master plan in April, which will show what should go where and how much space the project needs. A Moscow consultant also is about to finish an economic impact analysis that will show what economic impact an educational hub would have on the regional economy.

Neither of the reports will solve how the city and colleges can come up with the $10 million, Berns said.

Chesrown is still in the process of buying the DeArmond mill, which is still operating. The sale will happen in stages as will the environmental clean up of the lumber yard, which will consist of removing the nontoxic timber waste known as “hog fuel.”

Fostering higher education is important for North Idaho, Chesrown said. He likes the idea of having local students get their education here and then stay here to work.

That’s part of the reason he is establishing a 360-student private school in Liberty Lake as part of his Legacy Ridge development.

Chesrown’s mother taught in the Central Valley School District and his sister currently teaches there.

“There’s a real opportunity to keep more kids here,” he said.

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