March 24, 2009

County agrees to purchase YMCA building

By The Spokesman-Review
Christopher Anderson photo

The Spokane County Commission has agreed to use Conservation Futures funds to buy the YMCA building in Riverfront Park as part of a plan to demolish it and convert it to open space. A new Y is being built on North Monroe Street.
(Full-size photo)

The Spokane County Commission earned a million thanks today from city officials by agreeing in a split vote to use Conservation Futures funds to buy the YMCA building as part of a plan to demolish the building and convert it to open space in Riverfront Park.

The Spokane Park Board committed $1 million more than two years ago to interrupt a $5.3 million deal the Y had with a developer who planned to build a 15-story condo tower on the site, which is adjacent to Spokane Falls and surrounded by Riverfront Park.

But last year, board members approached the county about using property taxes collected as part of the Conservation Futures program to pay for the remaining $4.3 million. If the county turned down the proposal, the Park Board would have lost the $1 million investment if no other funding source was found.

Commissioners Todd Mielke and Mark Richard voted in favor of the measure and Bonnie Mager voted against the plan to spend $4.3 million from the Conservation Futures program to pay for the YMCA. It will commit the county to spend $350,000 of those funds, which are collected as a portion of property taxes, for 20 years.

“I feel this was brought to us in somewhat of an emergency and the Conservation Futures program was the last resort for (the Spokane Park Board) not to lose your $1 million,” Mager said. “With the economy tanking, the risk of a 15-story condo in the middle of the park doesn’t exist any longer.”

But Richard said the proposal is key to preserving what he called the jewel of the community, which came as a vision of King Cole to convert polluted railroad property into a park.

“My decision today is to serve those people 20 or 30 years from now,” Richard said. “If we can play a small part in carrying on (King Cole’s) legacy, I will have done what I intended to do when I took office.”

Mager pointed out that she supports the acquisition of the building and converting it to more park land.

“But it’s a question whether Conservation Futures funds should be used,” she said.

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