The majority of the Spokane Valley City Council seemed in favor Tuesday of purchasing the former Crescent building in the old University City Mall and turning it into a combined city hall and police precinct.The option was one of six new city hall options presented to the council. All the other options called for the construction of a new city hall with the police precinct staying at its current location on East Sprague Avenue.
The city’s consultants, MMEC Architecture, said they believe a new city hall should be 44,213 square feet on about two acres and a combined city hall and police precinct should be 71,500 square feet on 4.5 to 5.5 acres. The former Crescent building is 100,000 square feet and the site is a little more than six acres.
The other suggestions were to build a new city hall without a police precinct in the Crescent building parking lot; on a narrow slice of land on Sprague just east of University Road; in the parking lot of the old Yoke’s at Sprague Avenue and Progress Road; on land across from CenterPlace; and on land next to the Pinecroft Business Park on Mirabeau Parkway.
Councilman Dean Grafos said it could cost $16 million to build a new city hall and police precinct. “The Crescent building is for sale for $4.5 million, I believe,” he said. The city should be able to remodel it for $70 a square foot, he said.
Consultant Marian Evenson said in her experience that this type of major remodel would cost almost as much as new construction, which would top $200 a square foot. “We’re pretty sure there’s lots of asbestos,” she said.
While reusing an existing building is a good goal, buildings that are remodeled usually have “redeeming qualities,” she said. “I’m not sure that one has a lot.”
Consultant Doug Mitchell said the condition of the building’s electrical, mechanical and IT systems is unknown. “There are a lot of things not up to standards,” he said. Windows would have to be cut into the concrete walls and even then the building is so large and square that many employees would be working too far from the windows, he said.
Several council members said they liked the option because it was across the street from the planned expansion of Balfour Park and the possible construction of a new library branch.
Councilman Arne Woodard said he and other council members have toured the building, which is owned by Coeur d’Alene attorney Jim Magnuson. Having an oversized building isn’t a negative and might allow other organizations to have office space there, he said.
“I look at the value of a municipal plaza or campus,” he said. “The exterior does need some help. I understand that is a cost factor. Concrete cutting is not cheap.”
Woodard said he’s not sure that the city should construct a new building. “Being at the University area anchors a lot of redevelopment,” he said.
Grafos said the city should ask Magnuson to tear down the vacant buildings next door to the old Crescent because they’re past their useful life. He would also like to see an easement on the east side of the parcel to make the Crescent a free-standing building.
He also argued that having a big building is not a bad idea. “You’re never going to go wrong doing that,” he said.
City manager Mike Jackson said he wanted to keep the city’s options open. “It’s too soon to start eliminating them,” he said.
Mitchell said he would need to examine the current condition of the former Crescent “and see what you all would be getting yourselves into,” he said.
Grafos seemed eager to move forward with discussions with Magnuson. “We have low interest and an economy that’s growing and a willing seller,” he said.
Councilman Gary Schimmels sounded the only note of caution and said he was concerned about the condition of the building’s second floor.
“I do not like that building,” he said. “If you weigh over 250 pounds you probably wouldn’t want to walk everywhere in that building. Do you follow me?”
Yet to be determined is how to pay for a building, new or remodeled. At one time the city had several million dollars set aside for a new city hall but in the last few years a portion of that money has been spent on street preservation projects.