May 16, 2008 in Business

Inland Power has green goal for new HQ

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Inland Power & Light Co. will shoot for LEED Gold – the second-highest level of sustainability certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council – for a new headquarters building it’s constructing on the West Plains.

The electric cooperative broke ground last week on the expansion project at its current central warehouse, 10110 W. Hallett Road. It owns 21 acres there, where it plans the 26,000-square-foot administration building, a vehicle fleet-maintenance building and an addition to the warehouse, said John Francisco, project manager.

“We’ve been here in downtown Spokane for over 50 years,” Francisco said. “We’re about triple the size now that we were then. And in addition to growth, we’re hoping to unite our field crews with our administrative staff” for increased efficiency.

The admin building would be among the first new commercial buildings locally aiming for LEED certification. “Green” elements would include high-efficiency heat pumps, raised-access floors and recycling of construction waste, he said. The co-op also will apply for credits for buying renewable energy.

“We’ve done extensive work with natural day lighting,” Francisco said.

Inland Power will look to sell its downtown building, 320 E. Second Ave., and an adjacent structure, but they’re not currently on the market, he said.

The co-op provides power to more than 35,000 customers in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. It employs about 110, Francisco said.

Retirement facility planned

A Spokane nonprofit intends to build a 50-unit independent-living facility for low-income elderly in north Spokane.

The four-story Lilac Terrace Retirement Community, 7009 N. Wiscomb St., would join Spokane Baptist Association Homes’ nearby 174-unit Lilac Plaza tower. The roughly $10 million project could start in mid-September, once the organization finalizes funding, said Shane Comer, housing developer for nonprofit Community Frameworks, which is acting as a development consultant.

Funded by local, state and federal money, Lilac Terrace would include a large multi-purpose community room, library, computer room, exercise room and office and atrium. Most of the units would have one bedroom, with laundry facilities on each floor.

The units will cover only about 2 percent of the need for that type of housing in Spokane, according to a feasibility study commissioned by the organization, said Glen Pierce, CEO of SBAH.

SBAH provides affordable housing and services for the elderly. It also owns and operates a 96-unit Holman Gardens in Spokane Valley.

Home affordability up

The recent downturn in the residential real estate market might be causing would-be sellers to flinch, but for Spokane County buyers it means improving affordability, a new report shows.

The typical family had 129 percent of the income needed to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home of $186,800 during the first quarter this year, according to data from Washington State University’s Washington Center for Real Estate Research. That’s about a 2 percent increase from the same quarter in 2007.

First-time homebuyers, assumed to have lesser incomes, had about 72 percent of the money needed to buy less expensive homes – about a 1 percent increase.

Statewide, affordability improved about 6 percent, according to the center. The median home resold for $293,600, a 2.4 percent decrease. The national median, meanwhile, decreased 7.7 percent.

Home resales and housing building permits countywide declined more dramatically than statewide, the data shows. Resales decreased about 32 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 29.6 percent slide statewide. County building permits decreased 61 percent, compared to a 46.7 percent drop statewide.

Candy Hut closing

The edible Lego blocks, chocolate-covered Gummi bears and other novelty sweets offered by a family-owned kiosk in River Park Square will be gone come next month.

Candy Hut will be replaced by a new, larger kiosk by the owner of Boehm’s Chocolates & Flowers the week of June 2. Candy Hut had been on a month-to-month lease, and the change is part of keeping mall offerings “fresh and renewed,” said general manager Stephen Pohl.

After about seven years in business in downtown Spokane – first in the Crescent Court Building, then in the first floor of the mall – Candy Hut’s future is uncertain, said employee Sandi Grove. “It’s a very sad thing, because we’re closing June 1,” she said.

It’s been difficult informing regulars of the hand-crafted kiosk, owned by Joe Hawkins and his sister, Sarah, Grove said. It’s unknown whether it will reopen elsewhere, she said.

Boehm’s owner Johanna Julyan plans to fly to a candy expo in Chicago next week to pick out confectionaries for the new kiosk, Sweet Traditions.

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