A group of Spokane leaders had a vision more than 30 years ago to transform what was once a desolate railyard into an innovation district where private companies, education and health care intersect to create economic opportunity.
That vision continues to come to life as the 770-acre University District is now home to six universities, Avista Development’s and McKinstry’s Catalyst Building, and two medical schools – Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and the University of Washington-Gonzaga University Regional Health Partnership, which is expanding health care education through a new building that broke ground Thursday via a virtual ceremony.
Seattle-based McKinstry and Gonzaga are developing the 90,000-square-foot structure at 840 E. Spokane Falls Blvd., which will house UW’s School of Medicine in Spokane and Gonzaga’s Department of Human Physiology, in addition to undergraduate courses in nursing and health sciences. The UW School of Medicine is currently in the Schoenberg Center on Gonzaga’s campus.
“The resources and facilities represented within this building will expand our capabilities and deepen our collaboration,” Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh said in a statement. “It will also open doors to new and exciting research partnerships. We are grateful to Dean Allen and McKinstry’s Emerald Initiative for stepping up to partner with all of us and to make possible this extraordinary and important contribution to the growing medical, health education and research infrastructure here in Spokane.”
The four-story building will feature classrooms, an anatomy lab, research labs and administrative offices that will be used by more than 500 graduate students from Gonzaga’s health sciences program and 120 first- and second-year students from the UW School of Medicine’s WWAMI program.
The five-state regional WWAMI program allows UW medical students to learn in rural health care settings.
The University of Washington School of Medicine and Gonzaga University formed a partnership in 2016 to advance health care in Eastern Washington through medical education and research.
“The UW School of Medicine has been teaching medical students throughout Eastern Washington and Spokane for nearly 50 years,” Paul Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine and dean of the UW School of Medicine, said in a statement. “In this exciting and new world-class teaching facility students from medicine and nursing will come together for interdisciplinary training to help build the health care workforce for Spokane, Eastern Washington and the region.”
McKinstry’s adjacent 55,000-square-foot Spokane Inland Empire Railroad building will become part of the health care cluster, providing classroom space for 30 to 34 students from UW’s MEDEX physician assistant program.
“This partnership ushers in a future where education, research, innovation and dedication improve health science access and quality for rural communities, for our neighbors and for our world,” said Dean Allen, CEO of McKinstry and the Emerald Initiative, the company leading design, development, construction and management. “This center will create a place where higher education and the private sector can collaborate and innovate to deliver a long and lasting impact.”
Allen’s vision is to create a health care hub by attracting private-sector medical companies to join the universities in the two buildings.
The universities signed long-term leases to occupy 60,000 square feet of space in the two buildings, and additional space is available for lease by public and private sector tenants, he said during the virtual groundbreaking.
The project architect is Seattle-based CollinsWoerman Co. Bouten Construction Co., of Spokane, is the project contractor.
The health education building is slated for completion in summer 2022.