Jensen-Byrd Update – RFQ 2015

by Karen Dorn Steele

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Developer Wally Trace during a recent tour of the Jensen-Byrd. Photo by Karen Dorn Steele.

Taking another step towards saving the Jensen-Byrd building, Washington State University has released a “request for developer     qualifications” for leasing and re-purposing the historic warehouse on WSU’s Spokane campus.

“We look forward to proposals that acknowledge the historic nature of the Jensen Byrd building, are compatible with the mission of a health sciences campus and will add to the revitalization and prosperity of downtown Spokane and the University District,” said Chancellor Lisa Brown on October 6, the day the developer request was released.

The WSU-owned Jensen-Byrd property is located between Main Avenue and East Spokane Falls Boulevard. It consists of three parcels totaling approximately 4.1 acres.
The land is adjacent to the city core on the southwest end of the campus and is designated in the campus master plan for potential mixed – use development to satisfy campus facility needs.

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Exterior shot of the Jensen-Byrd. Photo by Karen Dorn Steele.

The project is part of WSU’s long-term plans to create the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and construct the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic on the southeast end of campus.
Development of the Jensen Byrd building and construction of the clinic, “will create attractive bookends for both downtown and the University District and will allow for our campus to grow while serving the needs of our students,” Brown said.

Seattle developer Wally Trace has already expressed interest in Jensen-Byrd, working in partnership with Dean C. Allen, the CEO of McKinstry, a full-service consulting and facilities firm which has won awards for renovating a historic trolley warehouse on East Spokane Falls Blvd.


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Trace’s preliminary proposal. Photo by Karen Dorn Steele.

Trace invited local preservationists to tour Jensen-Byrd with him in August. He discussed his concept – controversial among some preservationists – of gutting the building’s interior to create a modern space while preserving the historic brick façade, which Trace called “sacred.”

“We want you to support us. We won’t fight with the community,” Trace told preservationists during the tour.  Saving Jensen-Byrd has been a top priority of SPA.

Four years ago, WSU pushed to demolish the century-old warehouse it had bought in 2001, encountering fierce opposition from preservationists. SPA hired a prominent land-use attorney to challenge the demolition permit issued by the city of Spokane in 2011, prompting the Texas company hired to demolish the building to pull out of the project.
In 2013, when former state senate majority leader Lisa Brown became the WSU Spokane chancellor, she told SPA leaders she wanted to preserve Jensen-Byrd as a center of campus life.

The deadline for submitting a statement of qualifications for the Jensen-Byrd project is Nov. 16. Find more information at

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Trace (back to camera) talks with locals about his proposed project. Photo by Karen Dorn Steele.
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Interior tour continues. Photo by Karen Dorn Steele.

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