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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Crisis nursery finds new home on East Sprague property

Scott Kusel, a general contractor who lives in the East Central Spokane, stands next to the former SYSA Bingo hall on Tuesday, July 5, 2016.  The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery purchased the  building on East Sprague Avenue on Oct.  5, 2017. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Thanks to a deal closed this month, a site once populated by shopping carts and grocery aisles, and then bingo calls, will provide future urgent care to youngsters in need.

The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, which provides 24-hour emergency care for children up to 6 years old, purchased the former Safeway and SYSA Bingo Hall on East Sprague Avenue on Oct. 5. The organization plans to build a new center there over the next three years.

The nonprofit started looking at the 1.6-acre property in September, said Amy Knapton Vega, the nursery’s executive director. The deal was closed three weeks later, settled for a purchase price of $1.3 million.

The new location will help the nonprofit significantly increase its services to abused and neglected children, Vega said.

“We have been turning more kids away than we should,” she said.

Vega said the nursery has been looking for space to house a new facility for the past seven years, and made offers twice before, without landing a final deal.

The property is at 2230 E. Sprague Ave., on the edge of the Sprague revitalization project. Vega said the building currently on the property will be taken down and a new one built.

“There is nothing salvageable about that building,” she said.

The Safeway was built in 1966. It was planned by architect Kenneth Storment, who also designed the Bon Marche building in downtown Spokane, as well as a number of other Safeway stores in the region.

After the Safeway closed, the building was used as a SYSA Bingo Hall for more than 25 years. SYSA Bingo moved out on Feb. 28, 2016, and the building has sat empty since.

During a recent survey of historic buildings in Spokane, Megan Duvall, Spokane’s historic preservation officer, said the Safeway building was flagged as a possible candidate for a historic listing.

Duvall said she would be sad to see the building go, but that the crisis nursery was important enough to the Spokane community as to make the redevelopment worthwhile.

Vega said the $1.3 million price tag may seem high, but the nursery has been putting money away to buy a new property for seven years.

“If that is what it takes to take in more kids, then that is what we’ll pay,” Vega said. The organization paid cash for the property.

According to 2015 tax documents, the most recent available, the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery had more than $2.8 million on hand at that time.

Vega said the nonprofit used much of its reserve funds to purchase the building and is currently considering a fundraising strategy as a next step in the construction and redevelopment process.

The organization is working on the plans and a timeline for the new building, Vega said. It plans to construct a 30,000-square-foot building and a 6,000-square-foot outdoor play space in the next three years.

Vega said the new center will extend all the way to the sidewalk, with parking and a play area in the back.

In doing so, the design falls in line with plans for the Sprague revitalization project, which seeks to improve walkability and safety. The latter is particularly important for a facility that provides services to vulnerable children and families, Vega said.