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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane’s 770-acre University District searching for new director

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 20, 2017

Near the urban center and home to higher education and research facilities, Spokane’s U-District meets some of Amazon’s criteria for its second headquarters. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Near the urban center and home to higher education and research facilities, Spokane’s U-District meets some of Amazon’s criteria for its second headquarters. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Not long after Spokane’s University District hired its first executive director, the district again is advertising for the position.

Mark Mansfield, who assumed the post in mid-2015, has resigned to move back to Norway.

“He decided to retain his residency there,” said Karl Otterstrom, chairman of the University District’s board of directors. “It’s a big loss. … He had a passion for the University District and Spokane. We’re looking for the next person to take on that role.”

Mansfield, whose parents live in Spokane, had worked in Oslo before accepting the job.

The board hopes to hire a new executive director by late spring. The district’s immediate goal is to keep building on the cooperation among education, business and community leaders, Otterstrom said.

The University District formed in 2009 with a vision related to higher education, research, job growth and urban living in 770 acres west of downtown along the Spokane River. The district initially operated under the umbrella of the Downtown Spokane Partnership but now has its own organizational structure and offices in the University District, Otterstrom said.

More than $740 million of public, private and institutional investment has gone into the district since 2004. Major components of the district include the new Washington State University medical school, a medical school partnership between the University of Washington and Gonzaga University, and graduate programs of other colleges and universities.

Leaders see opportunities for university research to create additional jobs in the district, with spinoff companies that would commercialize research results.

Housing, parking and transportation are areas of ongoing work for the district, Otterstrom said. A 2015 study identified the need for additional housing units. The new executive director also will look at ways to get people to and from the district in transportation strategies that go beyond cars, Otterstrom said.

A pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting the district with East Sprague Avenue is part of the strategy. Designs for the $12 million bridge were unveiled last fall, with construction expected to be finished in 2018.

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