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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Falls, McKinley School projects win city backing

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 7, 2020

A rendering shows a single 22-story tower planned as part of The Falls project from developer Larry Stone. (Courtesy of L.B. Stone Properties)
A rendering shows a single 22-story tower planned as part of The Falls project from developer Larry Stone. (Courtesy of L.B. Stone Properties)

The city of Spokane will give two major developers a helping hand.

The City Council signed off Monday on financial incentives for the developers behind the McKinley School renovation in east Spokane and The Falls, a high-rise planned on the north bank of the Spokane River.

The funds, totaling about $463,000, were issued through the Projects of Citywide Significance program and are subject to a number of conditions under development agreements approved by the council.

The two projects are the last to draw from more than $2 million set aside for the program, which was launched in 2015 with funds freed up through the refinancing of bonds. Past recipients include the Catalyst Building, an anchor facility under development in the University District, and the group behind the redevelopment of the Wonder Building.

Though the funding is only provided for improvements to public infrastructure on and near the sites – such as upgrades to utility lines – it is intended to provide a boost to developments with a positive economic impact on the city.

Both projects were recommended for approval to the council by the Project Review Committee last year.

The Falls is the latest project by developer Larry Stone, president of SCAFCO and LB Stone Properties. It was awarded up to $300,000, the maximum allowed under the program’s rules.

The renovation of McKinley School, a historic four-story former public school building at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Napa Street, is spearheaded by developer Rob Brewster and partner Steve DeWalt. It was approved for about $163,000 on Monday.

Councilwoman Kate Burke, who routinely questions the efficacy and necessity of tax incentives for private developers, was the only council member to oppose each development agreement.

“I’d rather use that funding to go to something like investing in people in poverty or housing,” Burke said.

Councilwoman Candace Mumm responded that while those “are all very honorable things to do,” the funding is only provided for improvements to public infrastructure. She supported the incentives.

With The Falls, Stone envisions three towers along the Spokane River on the site of the former YWCA. He’s already submitted plans to the city for the first 22-story tower, which would include more than 100 units of housing, with restaurants on the ground floor. Stone said last year that he expects construction to begin in 2020.

Altogether, plans for the three-tower complex include more than 300 apartments and condominiums.

The funds approved in the development agreement approved by the City Council on Monday will be used to bury utility lines around The Falls project.

With the McKinley School, Brewster and DeWalt have laid out a vision for a multiuse facility centered on a brewery.

Built in 1902, the building was formerly an elementary and junior high school.

According to DeWalt and Brewster, the project was delayed amid the city’s installation of a sewer and stormwater tank near the building, a project that finished in 2019 more than a year behind schedule. Until the debt was paid in August, the property had racked up an unpaid tax bill of more than $43,000.

Teri Stripes, a planner with the city, reminded the council on Monday that the funding is only set aside for improvements made in the public right of way, such as upgrades to sewers, sidewalks and water lines – “not a lot of glamorous things,” she added.

The program does not pay the developers upfront, but rather reimburses them for documented costs associated with the agreed-upon work following the project’s completion.

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