Council adopts downtown business and housing incentive policies

Amber Waldref, City Council Member, 509.625.6719

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 1:57 p.m.

The Spokane City Council approved two new policy changes Monday night to help developers reuse older buildings and support investment in downtown and other centers.

The first change sponsored by Council Member Amber Waldref creates a pilot utility installation project in downtown Spokane to cover the cost of upgrading aging utility infrastructure in the public-right-of-way as a match to the work of private development on the interior of a building. Waldref says this project is a vital tool to help developers and small businesses mitigate the cost of upgrading older buildings in the city center.

“Eligible builders and businesses will be able to access up to $40,000 toward utility upgrade costs,” Waldref said. “These incentives will help support new investment in downtown, and the new revenue generated from private investment will benefit public safety and quality of life throughout Spokane.”

The other change is an adjustment in the sewer rates charged in certain types of buildings downtown and other city centers, corridors and commercial areas. If housing is constructed in a building that has been used commercially (for instance, first floor in use, and upper floors empty) City utilities will continue to charge the commercial rate instead of the (higher) per unit residential rate/unit. This change will incentivize redevelopment of housing in older buildings citywide and create new utility customers.

“These initiatives will reduce utility costs to projects downtown and in our city’s targeted growth areas,” Waldref said. “Supporting growth of new utility customers where we have existing infrastructure is good fiscal policy and consistent with our Comprehensive Plan.”

To be eligible for the Pilot Utility Installation Fund, developers must meet financial and project criteria established by City administration and approved by the City Council. Utility reserves would seed the fund, and utility revenue generated from projects would be tracked to show return on investment to the City over a five-year period.  If successful, it could be expanded to other centers and corridors citywide.