Pacific Bridge to include new location for Spokane Public Radio

SUNDAY, AUG. 22, 2010

Spokane Public Radio plans to buy a historic building in the Pacific Bridge redevelopment project downtown and add a state-of-the-art studio there.

The National Public Radio affiliate, which broadcasts primarily on KPBX-FM, has leased space on North Monroe Street for 30 years.

Meanwhile, the company developing Pacific Bridge is moving ahead with other elements of the project, including a transaction that will allow a public market to open there next year. Pacific Bridge is envisioned to encompass a city block bordered by Browne and State streets and Pacific and Second avenues, southeast of the city core.

BR3 Development Group LLC, owned by five Spokane-area businesspeople, hopes to redevelop the five vacant buildings there for a mix of uses that include office, residential and retail.

Spokane Public Radio says it’s buying a 9,000-square-foot building at 19 W. Pacific, at the southwest corner of State and Pacific, as well as a vacant lot just to the west. The nonprofit plans to use the building for its offices and to construct an adjoining, 7,500-square-foot studio on the vacant lot.

Kat Langenheim, who formerly headed a capital campaign to redevelop the Fox Theater for the Spokane Symphony, heads up the station’s planned capital campaign to pay for the nearly $9 million project and set up a $1 million endowment to support operations.

Construction of the studio and renovation of the adjacent historic building won’t get started until Spokane Public Radio has received commitments for 65 percent to 75 percent of the funding, Langenheim says. “That could be two years away,” she says.

The radio station’s new facility will include a new broadcast studio, upgraded digital equipment, better office space, and more room for its extensive music libraries, the broadcaster says.

The station says it has needed new quarters for some time. Its space on the second floor of a building at 2319 N. Monroe is cramped, with offices that were formed out of closets and a leaking roof that has damaged expensive equipment and rare music albums. Also, a steep staircase has limited participation in station activities by disabled staff, volunteers and on-air guests.

The station’s music library is cubbyholed throughout the building, and radio programs produced in its studios sometimes are interrupted by sirens on the street below, it says.

The new studio on Pacific Avenue will be designed by Russ Berger Design Group, a Dallas firm that also designed the broadcast studios of National Public Radio in Washington, D.C. The facility will be built to silver standards in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system, and will be equipped to national production and acoustic standards for broadcast radio, the station says.

Spokane Public Radio says it has 18 full-time and 12 part-time employees, plus about a dozen volunteer hosts and producers and more than 300 other volunteers. KPBX programs are supported by more than 200 underwriters each year, as well as listener donations.

Its broadcast area spans about 20,000 square miles in Eastern Washington, North Idaho, northwest Montana, northeast Oregon, and parts of British Columbia.

The building the station plans to buy on Pacific was built in 1911 and is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Spokane Register of Historic Places. Langenheim says Spokane Public Radio looked at 34 sites before settling on the Pacific Avenue properties. That location “met a lot of our goals,” she says.

Because it’s within the University District, a city targeted development area, the station expects to receive financial help from government, including tax incentives and deductions, waivers of fees, “green” incentives, and Americans With Disabilities Act tax credits.

Meanwhile, BR3 Development Group expects this month to complete the purchase of the vacant former Roses & More warehouse along Second Avenue on the south side of the development block, says Chris Batten, president of the development company. It then plans to lease out roughly 80 percent of that 25,000-square-foot structure to the nonprofit Spokane Public Market, which seeks to establish a year-round indoor market and is separate from the farmers market held at Fifth Avenue and Browne Street. He says he expects the public market to open for business there late next spring.

Batten says the remainder of the space in that building will be leased to Juliet Sinisterra, of Spokane, who plans to open a “green-living general store” there called Sun People Dry Goods. Batten says she hopes to open in the fall.

Also, BR3 Development has received a change-of-use permit and a building permit from the city of Spokane to begin redevelopment of the vacant Duquesne Apartments building, at 31 W. Pacific, into an office building. That structure sits on the north side of the block, west of where Spokane Public Radio plans to locate.

BR3 Development has named Basso LLC, of Spokane, as project manager for the work and expects construction to begin by the end of this month.

Rencorp Realty, the law firm Parsons Burnett Bjordahl LLP and the nonprofit Spokane Neighborhood Economic Development Alliance plan to move into that building by late fall, Batten says.

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