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Thursday, April 9, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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WSU Spokane puts a halt to Jensen-Byrd Building renovation

UPDATED: Wed., June 7, 2017

The Jensen-Byrd building has stood since 1908. It is now owned by Washington State University. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
The Jensen-Byrd building has stood since 1908. It is now owned by Washington State University. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Arrival of a new medical school at Washington State University’s Spokane campus is being cited as the chief reason WSU officials decided to suspend a project to restore the historic Jensen-Byrd Building.

University officials said they want to step back from the restoration plan in order to reassess emerging needs at WSU Spokane, particularly given the anticipated influx of 120 students to the Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine by August 2018.

Those students will spend the first two years of the four-year program at WSU Spokane in the growing University District.

“There is a need to revamp the master plan” before moving ahead with any renovation project, said WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown.

In no way is the change intended to lead to demolition of the 1908 building, Brown said. Rather, the master plan will focus on creating more space for research, additional simulated teaching space for medical students and the addition of student amenities on campus, she said.

Planned construction of a new University District Gateway Bridge for pedestrians and bicycles over the BNSF Railway mainline is yet another wrinkle in the picture. Parking is always a consideration, Brown said.

The university in January 2016 accepted a proposal for the Jensen-Byrd renovation from JB LLC, but had not resolved ground-lease negotiations, officials said. Those negotiations were terminated pending the new master plan.

In a news release from the university Tuesday, Stacy Pearson, WSU’s new vice president for finance and administration, said JB LLC’s vision for the Jensen-Byrd property “is compelling, but that WSU needs to re-evaluate its campus plan due to changes that have occurred since the process began.”

Pearson also has distinct ideas and experience in running an urban campus as well as public-private partnerships, Brown said.

The current master plan dates to 2014.

JB LLC (JB stands for Jensen-Byrd) is headed by Dean Allen, CEO of McKinstry in Spokane.

“It is a comprehensive, beautiful plan” that was being pursued by the limited liability company, McKinstry spokeswoman Kim Pearman-Gilman said.

She said a separate LLC affilitated with McKinstry is undertaking renovation of a triangular building at Main Avenue and Pine Street across from the Jensen-Byrd Building.

WSU Spokane had been negotiating for redevelopment of four buildings – the large Jensen-Byrd warehouse building and three other warehouses to the east and west, covering a total of 4 acres.

Pearman-Gilman said the leaders of the company and McKinstry are looking forward to the results of a new master plan.

“We wish them the best on this because we think it’s super-important to our community,” Pearman-Gilman said.

The Elson S. Floyd School of Medicine is expected to enroll 60 medical students a year.

The four-year program will send students in their third and fourth years to study in communities where WSU has a presence, including Spokane.

Brown said the presence of health sciences and affiliated research is changing the face of the campus.

Brown will be leaving her chancellorship in August. She said she expects university officials to move quickly on a new master plan, which will likely be done by a private consultant.

“I understand the decision,” Brown said about stepping back for new master planning.

Daryll DeWald, the current dean of WSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, will succeed Brown on Sept. 1.

The fate of the Jensen-Byrd Building has been clouded for years.

In 2011, Texas-based Campus Advantage wanted to buy the warehouse, tear it down and erect new apartments and retail space. The project came under fire from the nonprofit group Spokane Preservation Advocates.

Dave Shockley, executive coordinator for SPA, was not aware of WSU’s announcement this week and declined to comment immediately.

According to news files, the Jensen-Byrd warehouse was built in 1909 by the now-defunct Marshall-Wells Hardware Co. of Duluth, Minnesota.

In 1958, it was purchased by Jensen-Byrd, a local hardware company.

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