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By JOHN McCALLUM
Managing Editor 

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Cheney Planning Commission gets construction update

 

March 22, 2018

Grace Pohl

Crews have begun clearing land for the foundation of the future, 42-unit L Street Apartments located on First Street just southwest of Spokane Transit Authority's K Street Station Park and Ride.

Current and future projects - both in Cheney and at Eastern Washington University - were the topics of discussion at the March 12 Cheney Planning Commission meeting.

Shawn King, EWU's associate vice president for facilities and planning, gave a project rundown, beginning with the one currently under construction - the $31 million renovation of the Pence Union Building. King said he recently toured the facility, and while there is a lot of work to be done, believes the project will have be completed in time for the student union building to open this fall.

With the passage of the state's $4.2 billion capital budget, Eastern can soon begin work on its proposed Interdisciplinary Science Center, located between the PUB and the school's 45-year-old Science Building. The $67 million facility, construction cost estimated at $47 million, will consist mostly of teaching labs, with some classrooms, in the 103,000-square-foot building.

The state also awarded Eastern another $11.7 million in construction funding, some of which King said will go towards pre-design work on a new engineering building. The facility was planned before EWU partnered with Avista Corporation on the new, $50 million "Catalyst Building" in Spokane's University District.

Three programs will move from the current Computer Science and Engineering Building to Catalyst once it's completed in 2020. Even with that extra space, King said projected growth in other programs such as mechanical engineering and robotics necessitate a new engineering building, the site for which could be either the former location of the Robert Reid Laboratory School next to Williamson Hall on Seventh Street, or - the preferred spot - next to the Computer Science and Engineering Building where the ROTC building is located.

King said in the case of the latter, space for the ROTC program would be included into the new engineering building.

Much of the rest of the $11.7 million state construction funding is made up of $7.5 million in money for minor projects around campus. King said this was pretty low.

"We had $35 million in requested projects, we received $7.5 million," King said. "In the past, we've gotten about three times that, easily."

King said they would prioritize the projects they worked on, with the top priority going to projects that involved health, safety and compliance with state and federal regulations. If possible, some work would go towards turning some existing classrooms into office and student support space since the university currently has a glut of classroom space.

In the long term, Eastern will seek state funding for a new Science Building, estimated at $105 million. King said they would ask the Legislature for the money in phases, beginning with $7.5 million this year for design.

The university also has $120 million in infrastructure needs it must address, recreation facilities upgrades King said would need to be done through donated funding, and a need to look at upgrade work on its residence halls while also building a new dorm in 5-10 years.

Commissioner Dan Turbeville asked King about a subject the commission is constantly dealing - the need to resolve parking issues around the campus that often strain relations with neighborhoods and the university.

"Is there any thought to building a parking structure with state funding or with a private company?" Turbeville asked. "This needs to be dealt with and preferably sooner than later."

King said discussions about parking take place with every project the university undertakes, and mentioned several locations that have been considered. A parking structure would have to be done through a public/private partnership, but would need to charge parking rates so high that students likely wouldn't use it.

"They (parking structures) can't pay for themselves," King added.

In staff reports, senior planner Brett Lucas and Public Works Director Todd Ableman briefed the commission on a number of projects scheduled for later this year. Ableman said the city would be doing water main replacement and street preservation work in several neighborhoods in north Cheney, including a large arterial project from Washington Street to Betz Road.

Lucas noted that the school district will begin work on expanding Betz Elementary School this summer, with expansion and modernization work on the high school soon to follow. The 42-unit L Street Apartment complex is under construction along First Street, with Parkside Commons student housing across from Cheney's pool slated for this summer.

Lucas also said another 100 units is proposed on land owned by developer Steve Emtman south of the railroad tracks along Alki Street and Cheney-Spangle Road.

"There will be about 200 (more) units (citywide) coming on in the next couple of years," Lucas added.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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