Monday, June 25, 2007


EWU in Spokane

Much of the news regarding Eastern this spring has dealt with the University's pending sale of the Spokane Center in the heart of downtown as it ramps up its presence at Riverpoint on the east end of town. Riverpoint, also known as the "U-District", already includes many signature programs from Eastern - the College of Business and Public Administration, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Dental Hygiene - and the goal is to eventually construct our own building on that site.
Here's a great op-ed piece in from Sunday's Spokesman from a former EWU president who played a key role in establishing the school's downtown presence 25 years ago!
Start someting big.


Spokane Center a competitive success

H. George Frederickson Special to The Spokesman-ReviewJune 24, 2007

The sale of Eastern Washington University's Spokane Center this summer will be as quiet and uncontroversial as its acquisition was noisy and controversial. When Eastern bought the building 25 years ago it set in motion the chain of events which eventually led to what is now the Riverpoint Campus. Eastern's creation of the Spokane Center visibly demonstrated for the first time that public higher education belonged in downtown Spokane. Eastern's acquisition of the Spokane Center showed that cooperation between universities may be good, but so is competition.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Eastern leased space in Lewis and Clark High School and later in the upper floors of the Bon Marche Building. In these facilities, Eastern offered dozens of graduate seminars annually, involving hundreds of persons studying for graduate degrees in education, business and other fields.
At the time, Eastern's Spokane graduate courses were the only significant public higher education presence in Spokane. Washington State University's presence was limited to the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education at Ft. Wright, a cooperative program with Eastern.
In 1981 the Farm Credit Bank was building a new and much larger building in downtown Spokane, at the corner of First and Wall streets, next to its old building. With about 50,000 square feet of space, much of it open, it seemed that the old Farm Credit Bank building was ideally suited to possible conversion to educational purposes.
So, Eastern officials proposed to Farm Credit Bank officials that the building be modified for classroom and library use and leased to Eastern. In response, Farm Credit Bank officials indicated that they would prefer to sell the building, using the money from the sale to offset some of the costs of their new building. And they were in a hurry.
Inasmuch as public university trustees have the power to acquire property, Eastern officials decided that the EWU Foundation would buy the building, for $3 million, that Eastern would in turn "lease to purchase" the building, and that it would be called the EWU Spokane Center.
When these transactions were announced, political and intercollegiate sparks flew, headlines blazed and editorialists had a free-for-all. Eastern officials were called to Olympia for hearings where their hands were publicly spanked by several legislators for having gone outside the ordinary budgeting process. Criticism was mostly from West Side legislators, the Spokane delegation being either silent or speaking in favor. But, within two years the full acquisition of the Spokane Center by the University was approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor.
Within 18 months Washington State University opened offices in leased space in the new Farm Credit Bank and began to offer educational programs. Open competition between WSU and EWU continued, off and on, for several years, a competition moderated by a sequence of different coordinating bodies.
The open and very visible presence of both EWU and WSU in downtown Spokane made it evident to community and university leaders that public university budgets could be used to finance development. To reduce competition a consolidated location and the synergy and efficiency of a single campus seemed the best course of action.
The old rail yard south of the Spokane River and east of Division Street was a logical location for a campus for EWU and WSU to share. Then, through the efforts of many dedicated community and university leaders, the Riverpoint Campus came to pass. And what a blessing it has been to downtown Spokane, the Spokane economy and the people of Spokane.
For 25 years the Spokane Center has been home to tens of thousands of college students. As Eastern says farewell it is altogether fitting to know that the proceeds from the sale of the Spokane Center will go to the pay the design costs for a new EWU building on the Riverpoint Campus.

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