May 6, 2008 in Business

WSU selects plan for Riverpoint health, research center

By The Spokesman-Review

A Denver-based development company is negotiating with Washington State University to transform a 3.5-acre portion of its Riverpoint Campus into a health care, academic and research center comprising two new three-story buildings.

NexCore Group first envisions constructing a three-story, 60,000-square-foot building on the northwest part of the site, which borders Pine Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard, to house a multispecialty outpatient facility anchored by Spokane practice Arthritis Northwest, a company director said. If the initial phase succeeds, the multiyear project could include renovating the historic Jensen-Byrd Building and erecting a second 60,000-square-foot building.

A WSU real estate committee selected NexCore’s proposal from four concepts for redeveloping the site, including bids from Spokane-based developer Wells & Co. and GVD Commercial Properties Inc., which has a local office. The university’s latest request for proposals forbade demolishing the six-story brick Jensen-Byrd – a victory for local preservation advocates.

“Our anticipation is that we’re going to begin immediately,” said Jarrod Daddis, NexCore’s senior managing director for development. “We’ll start with negotiations, and we’ll continue work on design concepts and preconstruction and bringing together the synergistic mix of tenancy for the (first) building.”

The Riverpoint Campus site’s proximity to research at WSU and to Spokane’s hospital district “complements what we were thinking,” Daddis said.

WSU hopes to have a letter of intent for development by the end of the month, said Ryan Ruffcorn, a project manager for the university. NexCore’s proposal “would be a good tie to the university and sort of what our mission is here on campus,” he said.

The first phase would cost tens of millions of dollars, said Daddis, who declined to give specific estimates.

Formed in 1990, NexCore has 800,000 square feet of space – worth $140 million – under development across several markets, according to its Web site. In North Spokane, it developed the roughly 104,000-square-foot Holy Family medical office building, part of which it owns.

NexCore bid for 75-year ground leases for the WSU parcels. It would pay a total of $518,416 to lease the property for five years. Terms of the lease beyond that year are being negotiated, Daddis said.

Arthritis Northwest, a five-physician clinic currently located in the Sacred Heart Doctors Building, would move its offices to the site, bringing a “muscular-skeletal center of excellence” to the project, Daddis said. The Jensen-Byrd could be used for research and academic purposes, he said.

The company also plans 129-car and 110-car surface parking lots.

WSU sought new bids after on-again-off-again negotiations with a partnership between NAC Architecture and R.B. Goebel General Contractor Inc. ended in January 2008. That group had considered another bid for the Jensen-Byrd, but decided it was “not real amenable to conversion to commercial uses,” said Terry Goebel, co-owner.

GVD Commercial Properties also had proposed a medical complex on a chunk of the site, and using the Jensen-Byrd for arts and entertainment, said Jerry Dicker, president.

Wells & Co., known for renovating the Steam Plant Square, had proposed making the Jensen-Byrd and an adjacent structure into a parking garage and apartment units, the Spokane Journal of Business reported. The request for proposals prohibited creating residential condominiums.

The other proposal, by Redwood City, Calif.-based Amidi Group, suggested “a Pike Place-style public market on the ground floor, filled with working artists and craftspeople, as well as farm-fresh, locally-grown food,” and something similar to the Sunnyvale, Calif., Plug and Play Tech Center, an incubator for high-tech startups, said Chris Kelly, a local representative for the group.

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