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Officials: Development on West Plains, slowed by pandemic’s effects, beginning to regain momentum

UPDATED: Thu., May 21, 2020

Airway Heights, shown Wednesday, March. 11, 2020, was experiencing an explosion of housing development along with the rest of the West Plains prior to the pandemic’s impact on the area economy. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Airway Heights, shown Wednesday, March. 11, 2020, was experiencing an explosion of housing development along with the rest of the West Plains prior to the pandemic’s impact on the area economy. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Coronavirus-related concerns and restrictions halted several development projects on the West Plains, but activity is beginning to pick up again to accommodate an expected influx of 5,000 new jobs in the area, officials say.

S3R3 Solutions, formerly the West Plains Public Development Authority, experienced a slowdown in business recruitment at the end of March as COVID-19 took hold in the state, Todd Coleman, executive director of S3R3 Solutions, said in a West Plains Chamber of Commerce conference call Wednesday.

“But, fortunately, in the last 30 days, things have really picked up,” he said, adding the organization is seeing an influx of interest from companies looking at manufacturing and distribution centers on the West Plains.

California-based Mullen Technologies, which last year announced plans to manufacture its Qiantu K50 electric sports car on the West Plains, is awaiting a decision on a $450 million Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan from the U.S Department of Energy.

“When they are ready, we can put together the land necessary to support their project,” said Coleman, adding there is ample land near the Spokane International Airport to accommodate the company’s plans for a manufacturing facility.

Amazon is opening its 640,000-square-foot fulfillment center on the West Plains later this year, and hiring is underway for more than 2,000 full-time positions.

Additionally, Selkirk Pharma is planning to break ground on its $30 million manufacturing facility at 9110 W. Granite Ave. on the West Plains in July, Coleman said.

S3R3 Solutions is continuing its focus on infrastructure projects, including an “action plan” to expand and improve stormwater management, and transportation improvements from Craig to Campus roads in partnership with the cities of Spokane and Airway Heights.

The Spokane Tribe of Indians has temporarily halted its expansion plans for the Spokane Tribe Casino, said Mike Tedesco, executive director of the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

The Spokane Tribe was planning to double the space of the 38,000-square-foot casino with a food court, bar and entertainment venue. The expansion is part of the Spokane Tribe’s $400 million economic project that will create a casino-resort complex with a hotel, convention space, restaurants and retail on 145 acres in Airway Heights.

Airway Heights also saw a slowdown of activity within the city, but 90% of projects planned prior to the coronavirus pandemic are anticipated to be underway, said Albert Tripp, city administrator. The city will continue to pursue expansion of its urban growth boundary to potentially open up 300 acres for residential development, Tripp said.

Liberty Lake-based Greenstone Homes is planning a 150-unit residential development, Highland Village, southwest of the Spokane County ORV Park in Airway Heights, to accommodate an influx of new residents.

Airway Heights is also collaborating with the Cheney School District to prepare for an increase in students. The Cheney School District recently closed on a more than 11-acre site near Craig Road for a second elementary school in Airway Heights.

The city is moving forward with building a road parallel to U.S. Highway 2 to accommodate east-west traffic and ease congestion coming off Interstate 90, updating development standards and holding workshops this summer to plan for a downtown area, Tripp said.

The Cheney Industrial & Commerce Park has an agreement with a company to lease several properties, including a business incubator that has potential to grow within the park, said Mark Schuller, Cheney’s city administrator.

Eastern Washington University’s plans to shift classes online in the fall is a concern among Cheney business owners, who could be affected by a reduction in students in the area.

Cheney, like Airway Heights, is also looking at options to expand its urban growth boundary to make way for residential housing, Schuller said.

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