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Local building projects rise to $1.7 billion

Deb Halstead’s fourth-grade class at Garfield Elementary School got a lesson in adding big numbers Thursday.

Greater Spokane Inc. had prepared a banner touting $1.5 billion in area construction projects. But the total had grown to $1.7 billion when her students unfurled the message before business and education leaders celebrating commitments made to build or reconstruct schools and roads, banks and seminaries, pools and auto dealerships.

The solution? Paper over the “5” with a “7.” And smile for the cameras.

GSI President Rich Hadley said more projects came to the organization’s attention after the banner was ordered. And there may be as much as $500 million more in nonresidential work out there, he said, adding that some of the construction may be a few years away.

Not every project listed is a certainty. Sacred Heart Medical Center needs state approval for a $175 million expansion. And Whitworth University has not completed funding for a $37 million science building, Vice President Brian Benzel said.

But Spokane Public Schools has $325 million committed to school construction. The Washington Department of Transportation is working on $236 million in Spokane-area projects. And the Kalispel Tribe of Indians is working its way through $222 million worth of Northern Quest Casino expansions and upgrades.

On a smaller scale, Lincoln County is working on a water park for Davenport, and Liberty Lake has a new $550,000 library and public safety building.

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