A $15.5 million renovation project will transform one of the oldest buildings on Washington State University’s Spokane campus into the central hub for the university’s College of Medicine.
The Phase One Building located toward the northeast part of the campus was last used by Eastern Washington University until about a year ago when the university moved most of its Spokane programs into the Catalyst Building. Previously designated the EWU Center, the 113,00-square-foot structure has remained unused since.
WSU Spokane plans to renovate the building by adding a new student center, testing rooms, classrooms and faculty offices for the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
The project, funded through the state Legislature’s 2021-23 biennium, anticipates starting demolition later this month with completion estimated by mid-2023, said Eric Smith, WSU Spokane’s director of capital projects.
“I think we’ve got a lot of great things going on with the College of Medicine,” Smith said. “It’s an amazing building. We’re just trying to make the best use of it that we can, and it allows us to grow a little bit over time.”
Built in 1991, the Phase One Building is named as such since it was one of the first buildings constructed on WSU Spokane’s campus, Smith said. The university plans to rename it.
The renovation came about a few years ago from a predesign process for a separate project proposal related to a second Health Science Building, Smith said.
The former EWU Center once anchored EWU Spokane operations, having headquartered the College of Health Science and Public Health as well as the College of Business and Public Administration, said EWU spokesman Dave Meany.
Evaluating the former EWU Center, Smith said WSU officials saw an opportunity to enhance the existing space to better accommodate the College of Medicine, which currently has faculty and programs spread across campus.
“The administration functions for the College of Medicine are in the academic center building next door up on the fourth floor. That’s where their home base is,” he said. “But then you’ve got professors that are spread between nursing. Their IT team is in nursing. You’ve got research teams in the health science building. You’ve got some staff in the pharmacy building.
“They’ve been positioned wherever we’ve had space,” he said.
While the revamped Phase One Building will be used largely by the College of Medicine, Smith said nursing, pharmacy and other programs will also use the structure in some capacity.
WSU Spokane has hired Bouten Construction and Hennebery Eddy Architects to work on the project through what Smith described as a “progressive design-build” process, which has seen designers, construction managers and college officials collaborate at the same time as opposed to having architects design separately from the construction firm’s involvement.
Project developers hosted an open house Thursday for folks to get one last look at the building in its current state.
Smith said improving the acoustics is a project priority through new carpeting and sound absorption panels.
Meanwhile, the most significant physical change will be the removal of the roughly 100-seat auditorium. The auditorium’s demolition and other exterior changes aren’t expected to take place until next year, however, Smith said.
“There was a reason for it since this was the second building on campus. When they built the campus, they needed an auditorium. Times have changed a little bit,” Smith said. “It’s just not an efficient space. The floor is all concrete, so trying to change it, we don’t have enough room to change it to make it really effective.”
Four first-floor classrooms will be combined to create two testing centers for College of Medicine students. Given how regularly medical students take tests, Smith said controlled, dedicated spaces are more ideal than classrooms.
A second-floor space – once used by WSU as an architectural studio, then by EWU for the university’s creative writing program – will serve as the student center, which will have study spaces, a technology bar, 3D printers and a kitchen space.
With the third floor, Smith said developers plan to put workspaces for use by faculty and students while the wing once used for EWU’s College of Business will house faculty offices.
“It’s a wonderful building. It’s got great bones. We have not seen any structural issues with it,” Smith said. “We just need to reimagine some of the space.”