Incentives proposed to increase small business, housing investment downtown

Amber Waldref, City Council Member, 509.625.6719

Friday, August 22, 2014 at 2:01 p.m.

The Spokane City Council is considering two new tools to help developers reuse older buildings downtown.

Two changes are being sponsored by Council Member Amber Waldref. The first change creates a pilot utility fund to pay for utility upgrades in the public-right-of-way as a match to the work of private development on the interior of a building. Waldref says these funds are vital to helping developers and small businesses mitigate the cost of upgrading older buildings in the city center.

“With this fund, projects would be eligible for up to $40,000 toward utility upgrade costs,” she explains. “This will help support new investment in Downtown and benefit all of Spokane.”

One such new investment is the soon-to-be completed Tamarak Public House on West Sprague. Managing owner Teresa Gonder says working with the City of Spokane has been a great experience: “I want to see downtown buildings rehabilitated. This fund will help businesses such as mine add to downtown vitality.”

The other policy change is an adjustment in the rates charged to customers for sewer/water. This change will incentivize redevelopment of housing in older buildings city wide. If housing is constructed in a building that has been used commercially (the first floor is in use, and upper floors are empty), City utilities will continue to charge the commercial rate instead of the (higher) residential rate/unit.

“This will be a huge boost to making downtown housing projects pencil, such as the Ridpath,” says Council Member Waldref.

Other downtown development incentives are also being considered by the City. Downtown Spokane Partnership Director Mark Richard says these new tools are a welcome change.

“We are grateful for the leadership of our city council, particularly Council Member Waldref, to spur the re-use of what is an amazing historic building stock in downtown,” he says. “With interest in living in a vibrant and diverse downtown experience at an all-time high across the nation, the Council’s actions, both those in front of us today and those being crafted, will set the stage for an insurgence of downtown living in Spokane to meet those demands.”

Link to news conference: August 21, 2014 –