While construction work continues on the North Spokane Corridor north of Francis Avenue, more vacant homes will be torn down this fall in central Spokane to make room for freeway work that won’t be done until leaders figure out how to pay the $1.6 billion needed to complete it.
This summer, the state Department of Transportation awarded contracts to tear down about 50 structures – mostly houses – in the way of the proposed expansion of Interstate 90 and ramps designed to connect I-90 to the north-south freeway.
That connection isn’t expected for years – perhaps a decade – but the state has set aside money to buy homes in the East Central neighborhood, and more than 130 already have been removed.
Under one of the two new contracts, Larson Demolition of Spokane will remove 30 houses along East Second Avenue. The other, won by Rob’s Demolition of Spokane, will remove 19 structures, mostly homes and duplexes, said Department of Transportation spokesman Al Gilson.
Roxanne Grimm, the department’s acquisition supervisor, said 274 properties of the more than 500 needed to build the 10-mile highway have been purchased. About 250 of the acquired parcels are in East Central, she said.
Until this summer, the state focused on land north of I-90. Only about two dozen properties are left to buy north of I-90. Grimm said the department started buying land in June south of I-90 and east of Freya Street.
Meanwhile, city leaders are moving forward with plans to transfer a historic brick apartment complex that’s in the way of the freeway to a nonprofit group that plans to turn it into affordable housing.
The Spokane City Council last month approved the sale of the Rose Apartments, which also has been called the Cecil Apartments, to ECCO, the East Central Community Organization, for $114,200. The city paid about $90,000 for the complex last year at auction using federal money to prevent the building from being torn down.
The city began gutting the apartments, 1726 E. Third Ave., to transform them into low-income housing earlier this year.
Paul Trautman, the city’s housing program administrator, said the East Central group eventually will move the building to a new city-owned lot. Because the widening of I-90 is years away, officials decided to remodel the units before moving the building. Engineers also have advised the city that the building can’t be moved until adjacent structures are torn down.
ECCO led the effort to build Friendship Gardens, new affordable apartments for seniors across the street from the East Central Community Center.
“It’s great to be adding affordable housing units into the neighborhood when the freeway has taken so many away,” said Chris Venne, president of ECCO’s board.