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Developer secures Spokane permits for University District mixed-use apartment complex

UPDATED: Thu., March 4, 2021

This artist rendering provided by Sagamore Spokane LLC shows the planned 298-unit apartment complex The District east of downtown Spokane in the University District.  (Courtesy )
This artist rendering provided by Sagamore Spokane LLC shows the planned 298-unit apartment complex The District east of downtown Spokane in the University District. (Courtesy )
By Thomas Clouse The Spokesman-Review

The developer of a 298-unit apartment complex in Spokane’s University District announced Thursday that the city has issued building permits for the first phase of The District, which could break ground as early as next month.

The dense, mixed-use development is on about 13 acres of land on the south side of the Spokane River just east of downtown. It once was the home of the Spokane Manufactured Gas Plant and the American Tar Co. It’s bordered by the river on the north, East Martin Luther King Jr. Way to the south and and bisected by the Hamilton Street Bridge.

“We are thrilled to have this project underway,” Charles Dubroff, the principal of developer Phoenix-based Sagamore Spokane, said in a news release.

In 2016, part of the parcel that will become the apartment complex was dedicated for the construction of Martin Luther King Jr. Way. In 2020, the Washington state Department of Transportation began work on a three-year project to demolish and replace the East Trent Bridge.

The city and Sagamore Spokane are also working on plans to extend the Ben Burr Trail to the Iron Bridge and create a loop around the river, connecting Gonzaga University, the broader University District and the apartment complex.

“Our riverside parcel presented several unique challenges and opportunities that we wanted to make sure were addressed in a way that contributed to the long-term health and growth of the University District,” Dubroff said.

Getting to the issuance of building permits required a complicated four years of negotiations and agreements between multiple agencies.

The permits were issued only after a Prospective Purchaser Consent Decree was agreed upon by the Washington state Department of Ecology and the state Attorney General’s Office, in addition to approval in the form of a court order, according to the news release.

Once finished, The District, which had been referred to in city planning documents as River Bend, should eventually house about 400 residents in the 298 units. It will also provide a covered, private space with a dog park, play area, bocce ball court and volleyball court.

It will become the latest addition to the 770-acre University District that has been developed along the river in an area that once was a mix of railroad tracks and warehouses.

“The District is helping fulfill our mission to make the University District the preferred live, learn, work, play urban environment in the Intermountain Northwest,” said Lars Gilberts, the University District’s CEO. “This also delivers on Spokane’s 50-year push to transform our railyards into a vibrant and walkable urban core along the Spokane River.”

Construction is expected to start in April, according to the news release. Swinerton Builders LLC, of Spokane, is to be the general contractor, while Construction Management and Development Inc. has been acting as the owner representative.

Spokane City Councilwoman Candace Mumm said in October the $45 million project’s start date could not come fast enough. She said the one thing the University District had been lacking was a place for people to live.

Among those who might be attracted to the complex, she said, are students, faculty and staff from the other side of the river, where Gonzaga University’s demands for housing have put a lot of “stress and impact” on the Logan Neighborhood.

“I really think that it addresses our housing needs, not only in the University District but also citywide,” Mumm said. “A place to put 400 people in a very condensed space that would provide services is something I think the city is always looking for.”

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