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Council votes against chance to save Jensen-Byrd building

Tue., Feb. 7, 2012

The Spokane City Council might have had the chance to stop demolition of the historic Jensen-Byrd building for campus housing, but instead sidestepped a resolution calling for the building to be saved.

Executives of Campus Advantage, of Austin, Texas, said that a council vote against demolition would have been a signal to them that their project is not welcome in Spokane and that the project would be withdrawn.

The council voted 4-3 against a resolution seeking Washington State University, the owner of the building, and Campus Advantage reconsider plans for demolition. Council President Ben Stuckart was joined by council members Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref in supporting the resolution. Council members Nancy McLaughlin, Mike Fagan, Mike Allen and Steve Salvatori voted no.

The Texas company wants to build housing for as many as 425 students on the site of the 102-year-old hardware warehouse. The company has a purchase agreement with WSU.

An economic development argument persuaded the majority.

“Just because a building is old doesn’t mean it’s usable or savable,” Allen said.

But Stuckart spoke for the minority when he said, “I am going to come down on the side of preservation in this case.”

He said painting the issue as a choice between preservation or economic development was inaccurate, since he and other council members favor both.

Nearly three dozen people testified, including members of Spokane Preservation Advocates.

Salvatori pointed out that he is an SPA member and co-sponsored the resolution with Snyder.

He said Campus Advantage should be applauded for its decision to “come invest in Spokane.”

During testimony, Juliet Sinisterra, owner of Sun People Dry Goods Co. in a historic building at Second Avenue and Browne Street, told the council, “The Jensen-Byrd Building is irreplaceable.”

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