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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

U-City pitches city hall site

Owners sent Valley City Council unsolicited proposal for 2.5 acres

After a decade of relying on rented office space, Spokane Valley City Hall may be closer to finding a permanent home.

Owners of the former University City Mall have expressed interest in selling 2.5 acres at the corner of Sprague Avenue and South Dartmouth Road, which is across from the planned Balfour Park expansion and proposed new county library branch. The property owners reportedly also are offering to make aesthetic improvements to other parts of the property, including demolition of older buildings.

No dollar figures have been discussed, but City Council members consider it a strong contender and want to know more.

“My preferred location is U-City,” said Mayor Dean Grafos, noting it would tie in with Balfour Park as well as the Appleway Trail. “There’s a multiplier effect.”

The site is among five identified by city leaders earlier this month as the top options for a permanent City Hall.

Two of the sites are near Mirabeau Park, and the other three are along Sprague Avenue, which is where council members have said they would prefer City Hall be located. One of the Sprague options is a former Yoke’s grocery store near Sullivan Road and another is the existing commercial building where city hall currently is located.

Regardless of which site is chosen, city leaders want to finance a new city hall without raising taxes.

The city has $8.7 million in savings, though a portion of that is likely to be used for other projects in the coming year, and it could borrow an estimated $6.2 million that it would be able to repay with the $413,000 a year it’s currently spending on lease payments, documents show.

The city’s current lease expires in 2016.

The former University City Mall area has been discussed at various points over the years as a potential site.

Now, though, city officials say the owners appear motivated, noting they sent an unsolicited conceptual site plan to illustrate that the 2.5-acre parcel would be large enough to accommodate a two-story municipal complex.

“This might be a very viable option,” said John Hohman, the city’s community development director.

Although council members view the option favorably and want more information, some cautioned against jettisoning the other potential sites.

Councilman Bill Bates noted that much of the Valley’s development in recent years has been on the city’s east side and warned that a location near Sullivan Road shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly.

“Whether we like it or not, the center of the city has moved toward Sullivan,” said Bates, who still favors learning more about the U-City option and is among those who consider it a top choice.

Councilman Rod Higgins and others said it also could help with efforts to revitalize Sprague Avenue.