Friday, September 20, 2013

Army plans to sell Mann Center, halting city's redevelopment plans

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 4:02 PM

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart says the city has been dealt a “hugely disappointing” blow to its efforts to revitalize the abandoned Joe Mann Army Reserve Center in Hillyard.

The center is owned by the U.S. Army, but the city is considered its “Local Redevelopment Agency,” charged with selecting a plan for what to do with the building.

The center closed in 2010 after reserve units moved their work to Fairchild. The city agreed to hand over the land to Spokane Public Schools, but while authorities waited for the Army to make the transfer the buildings suffered extensive vandalism last fall and the school district backed out of the deal.

This spring, the city held community meetings and took proposals for what to do with the property. Stuckart says he was on the verge of announcing the city would choose the Spokane Tribe’s plan to spend $1.2 million to turn the center into an outdoor marketplace and manufacturing training center. The plan banked on the city’s understanding that the Army would do a no-cost government-to-government transfer of the property, so the Tribe would get it for free and be able to fund improvements.

Then, Monday, Stuckart got an email from Herbert Dannenberg, the Army representative he’d been working with, saying a free transfer was not an option. Because the center was classified as “surplus” property in 2005, Dannenberg said, the Army would either sell it to the city or auction it, but wouldn’t transfer ownership for free.

“I am utterly confused and disappointed at this point,” Stuckart responded by email. He says he then got a few “terse” responses by phone signaling the department would not reconsider. (We’ve reached out to Dannenberg and will update this post if he responds.)

Stuckart says throughout the process, he was asking the Army for approval of anything he made public, like requests for proposals of how to redevelop the center, but was never corrected when saying the property would be handed over from the federal government at no cost.

“It’s not like I was just FYI-ing them,” Stuckart says. “They were saying, ‘Yes that’s accurate, yes that’s fair, yes you can say that, yes that’s true.’”

Because the property will need expensive repairs after the vandalism, Stuckart says asking a local agency, like the Tribe, to pay for the property and for its repairs makes actual renovations unlikely. Further, Stuckart says, the “hundreds of hours” spent since this spring redetermining the property’s best use were a waste.

“We’re now back to square one,” he says. He blames the Army for not securing the building in the first place, leaving it vulnerable to vandalism, and says the recent reversal left him feeling “deceived.”

“It’s like, really, are you people crazy?”

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