February 3, 2011 in City

Demolition of old YMCA set to begin this month

Interior work first; stream an added complication
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

The old YMCA building stands on Havermale Island on the shore of the middle channel of Spokane Falls.
(Full-size photo)

The former downtown YMCA will begin to fall this month after more than five years of debate on the building’s fate.

The Spokane Park Board this week approved a $574,700 contract with Rob’s Demolition of Spokane to start dismantling the old Y.

Park Director Leroy Eadie said he expects Rob’s will get the go-ahead to start work as early as next week. The contractor will have 75 days to complete the project.

Officials said the building likely won’t fall to a wrecking ball.

“It’s more of a pick-it-apart approach,” Eadie said.

Although areas around the Y will be blocked to pedestrian traffic, Eadie said that during demolition, park visitors will be able to access the former Howard Street and suspension bridges that are nearby.

Rob Carper, owner of Rob’s Demolition, said there isn’t much salvageable material in the Y. Concrete, however, will be recycled. Work in the first couple of weeks will focus on the interior and on removing asbestos, Carper said.

A stream that flows in the Y’s basement is an added complication.

“We will isolate it and control where it goes and work around it,” Carper said.

The public could submit written comments to the city’s Building Department about demolition until Wednesday. A second review will occur once the city finalizes plans for rehabilitating the land, Eadie said.

The stream, which emerges from the dirt basement floor on the east side of the Y, is expected to be a focus of the property once it is returned to a more natural condition. Eadie said park officials have not decided how to route the stream to the river. A retaining wall built for the Upper Falls dam many years before the YMCA will be left intact.

“Retaining the existing sidewalk and retaining wall could present a significant problem with regard to naturally connecting the stream to the Spokane River,” wrote Jeff Lawler, an area habitat biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in a letter to the Park Department.

If done properly, the stream could become habitat for fish, Lawler said. If not, much of the stream could be covered up by new landscaping.

“I would like to see the stream flow unobstructed to the river,” Lawler said in an interview.

Eadie said the city will work with the state to find an acceptable solution for connecting the stream.

The Spokane Park Board has set aside $1.3 million to pay for demolition of the Y and restoration of the land. The contract with Rob’s should leave enough to complete the project, Eadie said.

The awarding of the bid to Rob’s is the second time in the last few weeks that the Park Board awarded a Y demolition contract.

The board first chose MoMike, which is owned by Mike Noder, who ran for Spokane mayor in 1997. However, MoMike later asked to rescind its bid, which was nearly $200,000 less than Rob’s Demolition, the second-highest bidder among four. A letter from Matthew Ries, an attorney representing MoMike, said the city didn’t give firms adequate time or information about the project. It also says that a bidder not named in the letter was provided more access to the site and helped the city draft requirements for the project.

“We weren’t sure that everyone was given a level playing field,” Ries said in an interview.

Eadie said the bid process was examined by city attorneys and found fair. Carper said all bidders played by the same rules.

“It was about as level as you could get,” Carper said.

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