In Brief

by Pia K. Hansen

Expansion Update -- SPOKANE -- The Public Facilities District gave a project update on the convention center expansion on Tuesday afternoon, and as expected, it didn't go down without a few fireworks.

"We have a limited budget of $96 million. That will not rebuild the city of Spokane, change the streets or provide parking for everyone," said a slightly exasperated Bill Williams, former chairman of the PFD. "This project will work, and it will come in under budget."

Newly appointed board member Tom Power, real estate executive and the manager of the Fernwell building downtown, had just made a pitch for building the Convention Center Expansion (CCX) south of the current Convention Center -- a location that was abandoned in favor of a combination of the east and south sites months ago.

"Give it up," said Williams, raising his voice, "it won't fit, and it won't work on the south site. It's going on the east site. Let's dig a hole in the ground and get on with it."

The big question was whether the CCX would come in on budget.

Kevin Twohig, CEO of the PFD, said that $10 million had been spent on property acquisition on the east site.

"The budget said $8 million -- the difference is Azteca," he explained. The PFD just recently decided to simply buy out that restaurant, instead of offering a relocation package to the owners.

Of the total property acquisition budget, $5 million remains, which, according to Twohig, will be spent on property located south of the current convention center for parking.

"Some people are circulating rumors that I'm not for the convention center. That is false," said County Commissioner Kate McCaslin. "I got my marching orders from the voters; they said go ahead and build this project, but they didn't say go ahead and spend as much money as you'd like."

By mid-April there will be a final design presentation as well as what Twohig called "an entirely new budget rundown on the project." The contractor will present the PFD with a guaranteed maximum price at that time.

"It doesn't really matter what side of the road this expansion is on -- what matters now is that if we do a bad job on this project, we all miss out," said Walt Worthy, the owner of the Davenport Hotel, who recently resigned from the PFD board. "I wish the citizens of Spokane weren't faced with this predicament: 432 meetings and we still don't own the dirt to build on. We should have designed the project before people voted on it."

University District Kickoff -- SPOKANE -- On Wednesday, the city is hosting the first workshop seeking community input on the development of the University District located between Division, Hamilton, Sharp and Sprague.

"It is a huge area, and there are a lot of opportunities there," says Robin Toth, economic development project manager for the city. "On the actual campus, both Eastern Washington University and Washington State University have already done a lot."

Daniel Iacofano of San Francisco-based Moore Iacofano Goltsman Inc. will be facilitating the workshop. Iacofano has also worked on Spokane's downtown plan, the Arts District plan and the master plan for Riverfront Park.

"There will be many opportunities for people to comment and provide input," says Toth. "We'll take comments during the workshop. We are trying to find out what it is that the stakeholders in the community want to see there."

The workshop is on Wednesday, March 31, from 6-8 pm at the

Avista Auditorium, 1411 E. Mission Ave. Call 625-6760.

Veteran on the Go -- SPOKANE -- Joe 'Jody' Caldarulo is on a mission, and it isn't for the first time. The Vietnam veteran has decided to walk across the country, from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. He's launching the trip at Riverfront Park this Saturday by walking out to the airport and then flying to San Francisco. He'll leave the Bay Area on foot on April 1.

"No, ma'am, it's not an April Fool's joke," says Caldarulo from his Newman Lake home. "I'm doing it for all veterans. We are seeing our funding cut, and we're easy targets. We have a tendency to not make demands."

Caldarulo plans to follow Highway 80 across the nation, reaching D.C. in time for the election.

The kickoff is on Saturday, March 27, at 10 am at the Vietnam veterans' memorial sculpture in Riverfront Park. To follow the walk or make donations, visit

Publication date: 03/25/04