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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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City Council pulls from reserves as losses mount at Spokane Intermodal Center

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 2, 2020

The Spokane Intermodal Center is seen  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
The Spokane Intermodal Center is seen (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Intermodal Center continues to be a financial sinkhole for the city of Spokane.

The Spokane City Council approved a $132,000 withdrawal Monday from city reserves to cover the operating losses at the Intermodal Center.

The center is, first and foremost, a terminal for Amtrak and bus passengers, but it is also home to office and commercial space that the city has struggled to rent profitably since taking responsibility for the property in 1983.

Financial losses are nothing new for the Intermodal Center. According to Dave Steele, an economic development specialist for the city, the center typically operates between $12,000 and $19,000 in the red.

“It’s a tough building to rent, we’re locked into leases there and then this year, on top of that, we did up the security due to some concerns around COVID,” Steele told the council as it discussed the issue in a committee meeting last month.

Council members unanimously – and begrudgingly – approved the expenditure Monday.

“It’s terrible how much money the Intermodal Center costs us routinely. It’s definitely not a great deal that the city signed up for twenty-some-odd years ago,” said Councilman Michael Cathcart.

Still, Cathcart acknowledged that the city is a landlord and has to maintain the building.

“These are expenditures that we have to make; I just hope that we’ll really think outside the box on this one. … There’s some alternatives I think we could really play with,” Cathcart said.

Councilwoman Candace Mumm lamented making the expenditure at the end of the year instead of projecting these costs from the start.

Financial losses are typical for the facility, and the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped its foot traffic.

Amtrak slashed its Empire Builder service from daily to three days per week in October. Earlier this year, the Spokane Police Department relocated its downtown precinct from the Intermodal Center to a new, remodeled space on the corner of Riverside Avenue and Wall Street.

Frontier Behavioral Health recently signed a lease for office space on the third floor, and the city is hoping to fill the rest of the building.

Officials are crafting a five-year outlook for the building to review with the City Council this month. They are searching for creative ways to bring in revenue “that helps us close the gap,” Steele said.

“We can’t continue to go on year after year and basically lose money on this program,” Mumm said.

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