Jensen-Byrd Developers

JBBy Karen Dorn Steele
Advocacy co-chair
Spokane Preservation Advocates

An imposing brick warehouse that nearly fell to the wrecker’s ball will now be restored as a historic centerpiece of Spokane’s new University District  campus.

Washington State University announced in late January that a new partnership known for major projects in Spokane and Seattle has been chosen to develop the six-story Jensen-Byrd Building.

Preserving the 1909 building has been a major goal of Spokane Preservation Advocates.

The group that won WSU’s “Request for Qualifications” bid includes McKinstry Spokane and Trace Real Estate Services of Seattle.  They will create a corporation named after the Jensen-Byrd building,  JB LLC, to redevelop the 4.1-acre site.

WSU-Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown said the development partners were chosen for the public-private partnership based on their experience.  WSU purchased the building in 2001.

McKinstry is a Seattle-based construction firm that renovated the historic Spokane and Inland Empire Railroad Building on the southeastern edge of the new Spokane campus. It has won national awards for historic preservation and energy use.

McKinstry CEO Dean Allen said construction on Jensen-Byrd would likely start next year.  Estimated renovation costs:  $55 to $61 million.

Trace Real Estate Services has developed several projects near Lake Union in Seattle.  CEO Wally Trace invited Spokane preservationists to tour the Jensen-Byrd building with him last year.

During the tour, Trace said he’d never done a historic preservation project but he’d listen to the academic community and to preservationists on how to utilize the Jensen-Byrd interior, which could include restaurants and other retail spaces and an athletic facility.

“We want you to support us…..we won’t fight with the community,” Trace said at the time.

WSU will announce the users of Jensen-Byrd within six to eight months.

The project will be on a tight schedule in order to align Jensen-Byrd with other projects, according to Mark Mansfield, director of the Spokane University District board and an SPA board member.

Those projects include the Gateway Bridge, a 450-foot tall pedestrian and bicycle path that by 2018 will connect the university district from a plaza near Jensen-Byrd to the East Sprague district near Sherman Avenue.

Saving the building has been a long – term goal of Spokane Preservation Advocates, which fought WSU’s 2011 plans to demolish it.

A Texas firm, Campus Advantage, agreed to buy the warehouse from WSU and tear it down, but backed out in 2012 after substantial public opposition, including a legal challenge by SPA to the demolition permit.

When former state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown became chancellor of the WSU-Spokane campus in 2013, she declared her support for saving Jensen-Byrd.

The warehouse was built in 1909 by the Marshall-Wells Hardware Co. of Duluth, Minnesota, a rapidly-growing company that went out of business in the late 1950s.

Its Spokane warehouse was sold in 1958 to local hardware business Jensen-Byrd.




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