The fate of the Cheney School District’s administration facility, the Fisher Building, was the main topic of discussion at last Thursday’s meeting of Cheney’s Historic Preservation Commission.
The school district has been phasing out operations at the Fisher Building, moving services to the 63-acre former Washington Air National Guard communication station site located just off Andrus Road southeast of Four Lakes. The only services currently at Fisher are a few people associated with the superintendent’s office, and those will also be moved to the Andrus Road site known as Needham Hill.
The school district would like to sell Fisher rather than try to raise the estimated $13 million it would take to renovate the facility, which first opened in 1930 as the city’s high school. In order to surplus the structure for selling, the school district has issued a determination of non-significance through project management company OAC, a procedure that also includes a SEPA environmental review checklist allowing for public comment.
Cheney Community Development Director Brian Jennings told the commission the SEPA list is required by state law for project and non-project actions, the school district’s intent to sell Fisher representing the latter, for any building being sold that was used for public purposes. City planner Brett Lucas directed the commission’s attention to page 10 of the list, item 13 “Historical and cultural preservation.”
The district noted under this item that “A historical ‘district’ has been defined generally bounded by Front (First) and 5th Streets, and C and F Streets.”
“We would want to note that it is across the street from the university historical district,” Commissioner Charles Mutschler said.
Eastern Washington University is one of handful of universities in the country that has a historical district, which includes buildings such as Showalter Hall, directly across Fifth Street from Fisher, Sutton, Senior and Monroe halls. Mutschler added that Fisher and the Philena Building, located just south of Fisher across College Avenue, are of similar architectural style that adds “ambiance” to the area.
“And it’s historic for the city itself,” Commission chair Bettye Hull added.
While the Fisher Building isn’t on any national or state historic registers, the commission believed it’s likely on a local one. Financial assistance is often available for helping those wishing to restore historic buildings for many uses, although Jennings said being listed on a registry doesn’t necessarily prevent an historic structure from being torn down.
“I know of buildings in Spokane that were de-listed and then demolished,” he said.
Lucas said the SEPA comment period ends April 12, and that the district has expressed a desire to make a decision on selling Fisher at its April 24 meeting. The commission decided to email additional comments to the Community Development Department staff for inclusion in a letter it plans to send to the school district.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.