By Karen Dorn Steele, SPA Advocacy Co-Chair
Preservationists have finally won out in a long fight to save the historic Jensen-Byrd building – but there is more work to come.
Updating its five-year master plan, the Washington State University Board of Regents voted in late January to redevelop the brick warehouse in the University District as a student center anchoring the campus entrance along Main Avenue.
WSU will now look for a public-private partnership to develop the Jensen-Byrd building, according to Rusty Pritchard, the campus’ facilities manager.
Cost of the renovation: an estimated $55.5 – $61.3 million.
WSU and its academic partners, including Eastern Washington University, will be involved in a planning process for the building that will be conveyed to potential developers, Pritchard said.
However, no capital funds will be spent on Jensen-Byrd this year because of a university-wide building moratorium announced this month.
“It will be planning on paper only for 2015,” Pritchard added.
The six-story Jensen-Byrd building came close to being demolished a few years ago _ until the Spokane campus got a new chancellor.
In 2013, WSU Chancellor Lisa Brown, the former Washington State Senate majority leader, announced her support for keeping and restoring the 106-year old building.
That has been a central goal of Spokane Preservation Advocates, which protested WSU’s previous sale of the building to Campus Advantage, a Texas company which planned to raze it and replace it with new student housing.
SPA hired an attorney to fight that decision. After significant opposition to the demolition of Jensen-Byrd surfaced in Spokane, Campus Advantage pulled out of the project in 2012.
As the University District campus evolves, it will including research and academic centers near Spokane Falls Blvd., a campus for clinical medical education to the east and the “college town” area near Jensen-Byrd, according to Randy Benedict, principal design leader at NBBJ architects in Seattle, an international firm that specializes in campus design.
The new campus master plan also commits to the pursuit of a WSU medical school, subject to approval by the Washington State Legislature.
As for Jensen-Byrd, the master plan envisions the building and the property surrounding it as “a viable heart of the campus for student amenities and services….a new campus front door entrance that serves as a greater connection to the city and region to promote health education research and build healthier communities.”
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