March 3, 2010 in City

Original bidder wants YMCA

Development proposals also include museum
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The developer who originally wanted to build a 12-story condo tower on the site of the former downtown YMCA has submitted one of three proposals for redeveloping the facility under city ownership.

The proposal by developer and real estate broker Mark Pinch is “way different” from the plan he had in 2006 when he offered to spend $5.3 million for the former YMCA building, he said on Tuesday.

He did, however, decline to discuss details of his new plan until the city makes the proposals public.

His original plan for a condo next to the lower Spokane Falls was killed when the Spokane Park Board exercised a right of first refusal to purchase the property.

That move in 2006 set the stage for an ongoing controversy about the best use of the property.

City Council members are now seeking private redevelopment proposals as a way to finance the $5.3 million acquisition, completed last summer.

In a second proposal, developer Ron Wells wants to turn the top three floors into apartments and the ground floor into commercial use.

In the third proposal, a graphic arts designer and former museum employee wants to see the facility used to display Spokane’s world-class collection of Native American artifacts.

“I am not a developer or anything like that,” said Jennifer Childress, of Spokane. “I am coming as a concerned citizen.”

She said she has no money or expertise to invest, but wants to make her suggestion part of the discussion.

A collection of more than 25,000 Native American artifacts has been held in storage through the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture since the 1991 closure of the former Museum of Native American Cultures next to Gonzaga University.

Childress had worked as an assistant there, and she said the collection deserves to be on display.

Pinch’s 2006 plan to develop the condo tower came at the height of an emerging market for downtown condominiums, a market that has slumped in the national recession.

The YMCA has since moved to 930 N. Monroe St.

Pinch said he has no way of knowing whether his tower would have been built since it was contingent on pre-sales of condo units.

Pinch operates his own development company, which would undertake his current proposal to the city, and is a commercial real estate broker with NAI Black.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said officials at City Hall are reviewing the proposals and plan to release them this week.

The City Council is holding a workshop session on the proposals on Monday, she said.

Wells previously said he would like to recruit Spokane Public Radio into the lower floor of the former YMCA. He said he has requested to lease the building for 50 years with the city taking 80 percent of the cash flow after his expenses are covered.

The city has an offer from the county commissioners that is good until March 31 to use Conservation Futures funding for the purchase, but only if the land is returned to a natural state.


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