Cheney Free Press -

Cheney School Board approves sale of Fisher Building - again

Premier Student Living, LLC looks at converting former administration building into student housing


For the second time in less than a year, the Cheney School District board of directors has agreed to sell the Fisher Building.

The board unanimously approved a recommendation by school district staff to sign an agreement selling the almost 85-year-old former high school, junior high school and administration building to Premier Student Living, LLC. The contract contains virtually the same language and conditions as a contract with the first potential buyer, Save the Fisher, LLC, as well as sale price, $950,000, which is 90 percent of the appraised value of $1,055,000.

And where a Cheney High School graduate, developer Steve Emtman, headed up Save the Fisher, another CHS graduate, Cliff Thompson, heads up Premier Student Living. With the signing of the agreement, Thompson now has 90 days in which to conduct feasibility studies on uses for the building as well as procure financing.

And as with the first agreement, Thompson’s contract contains a clause that the buyer agrees not to demolish the original building. It’s a point the public pressed the school board on at hearings last summer to make sure was included in any contract, and a point Director Rick Mount kept asking for assurances of from Thompson and his agent, NAI Black Realtor Mitch Swenson, during a public hearing on the sale at the board’s regular meeting last Wednesday.

“We have the buyer’s promise on the agreement,” Swenson told the board.

Mount asked what happens in case the contract is not followed, noting agreement language did not including any remedies for the school district should the building be demolished.

“Are we buying a lawsuit?” he asked.

School district Superintendent Dr. Debra Clemens told the board that the district’s attorney had reviewed the agreement and supported its language.

During a public hearing several Cheney residents provided testimony, including Ann Fisher-Heen, whose father George Fisher is who the building is named after. Fisher-Heen questioned whether the building was suited for a proposed usage for student apartments, wondering if there was enough parking to accommodate occupancy.

“I just hate to see students in that building,” she said. “It’s going to be just like the Philena.”

The Philena is a former apartment building since converted into a fraternity located across College Avenue from the Fisher Building. Fisher-Heen said a drive around Cheney indicated a lot of student housing with for rent signs, saying she doesn’t believe residents feel there is a need for more student housing, “and they vote.”

“I love this building,” Swenson, also a CHS graduate, told the board. “At the end of the day, it’s going to sit there and deteriorate into nothing unless it can be refurbished.”

Swenson also told the board that Thompson’s other apartment building, The Ivy, located on North Ninth Street, is a “first-class facility.”

“He loves this building (Fisher),” Swenson said. “That’s why he wants to do something for this community.”

In discussion of the agreement, the district’s executive director of finance, Kassidy Probert noted that the lowest acceptable offer drops from 90 percent of the appraised price to 70 percent after the first year.

Director Marcie Estrellado questioned whether there was any use for the building other than housing. According to the city’s zoning codes, the Fisher Building sits in an R-3H zone, high-density, multi-family residential.

In the end Mount agreed the district needs to get the building sold, noting the money can help in several areas, including getting the district’s reserve cash balance back up to its normal 5 percent level.

John McCallum can be reached at


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