Last week, Eastern Washington University quietly sold its downtown Spokane center to a Portland-based real estate company for $3.4 million, a sale authorized in this year’s legislatively enacted budget. Higher education old-timers will remember this facility as the controversial “Frederickson building” purchased back in the early 1980′s by former EWU president George Frederickson.
The former Spokane Farm Credit Bank Building was purchased by the EWU Foundation in 1982, a non-profit organization separate from the university. The purchase of the building caused quite a stir in Olympia at the time for a couple of reasons. First, the idea that a university could simply go out a buy a building outside of the “normal” capital budget processes was concerning to some legislators. Second, the physical presence of EWU in Spokane would ignite long-standing “turf wars” between EWU and Washington State University concerning which institution should be the primary provider of public higher education to the state’s second largest city.
The purchase of the Frederickson building resulted in the passage of a state law requiring higher education institutions to obtain prior authority from the Higher Education Coordinating Board prior to acquring any off campus facilities. In fact, the UW was required last summer to obtain Board approval for the purchase of the Safeco properties under the requirements of this same state law.
Both EWU and WSU are now committed to providing higher education opportunities in Spokane through the emerging Riverpoint academic campus, directly across the Spokane River from Gonzaga University. About 1,000 EWU students will move to Riverpoint when the academic year begins in the fall, joining 1,500 EWU students who already attend classes there. Proceeds of the sale of the Spokane center will be used for design work on a new academic building for the Riverpoint campus.