A $15.5 million renovation project will transform one of the oldest buildings on Washington State University’s Spokane campus into the central hub of the university’s College of Medicine.
The Phase One building toward the northeast portion of campus was last used by Eastern Washington University until 2021, when the university moved most of its Spokane programs to the Catalyst Building . Previously designated the EWU Center, the 113,000 square foot structure has since stood unused.
WSU Spokane plans to renovate the building by adding a new student center, testing rooms, classrooms and faculty offices for the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
The project, funded by the state Legislature’s 2021-23 biennium, expects to begin demolition this month with an estimated completion in mid-2023, said Eric Smith, director of projects for assets of WSU Spokane.
“I think we have a lot of great things happening with the College of Medicine,” Smith said. “It’s an amazing building. We just try to make the best use of it, and that allows us to grow a bit over time.
The College of Medicine — including classes of 2022-25 — consists of about 300 students, according to the school’s website.
Built in 1991, the Phase One building is so named because it was one of the first buildings constructed on the WSU Spokane campus, Smith said. The university plans to rename it.
The renovation came a few years ago following a pre-design process for a separate project proposal related to a second health sciences building, Smith said.
The former EWU Center once anchored the operations of EWU Spokane, having housed the College of Health Sciences and Public Health as well as the College of Business and Public Administration, the spokesperson said. the EWU, Dave Meany.
Assessing the former EWU center, Smith said WSU officials saw an opportunity to improve the existing space to better accommodate the College of Medicine, which currently has faculty and programs spread across campus.
“The administrative functions of the College of Medicine are in the neighboring University Center building on the fourth floor. This is where their home base is,” he said. “But then you have professors who are split between nursing. Their IT team is nursing. You have research teams in the health sciences building. You have staff in the pharmacy building.
“They were positioned wherever we had space,” he said.
While the redeveloped Phase 1 building will be used extensively by the College of Medicine, Smith said nursing, pharmacy and other programs will also use the structure.
WSU Spokane hired Bouten Construction and Hennebery Eddy Architects to work on the project through what Smith described as a “phased design-build” process. It allows designers, construction managers, and college officials to collaborate simultaneously instead of having architects design separately from the construction company’s involvement.
The project’s developers held an open house on Thursday so people could take a last look at the building in its current state.
Smith said improving the acoustics by adding new carpeting and sound absorption panels is a project priority.
Meanwhile, the biggest physical change will be the removal of the approximately 100-seat auditorium. The demolition of the auditorium and other exterior changes aren’t expected until next year, however, Smith said.
“There was a reason for that since it was the second building on campus. When they built the campus, they needed an auditorium. Times have changed a bit,” Smith said. “It’s just not an efficient space. The floor is all concrete, so trying to change it, we don’t have enough room to change it to make it really effective.
Four classrooms on the first floor will be combined to create two testing centers for College of Medicine students. Given how often medical students take tests, Smith said controlled, dedicated spaces are more ideal than classrooms.
A space on the second floor – formerly used by WSU as an architecture studio, then by EWU for the university’s creative writing program – will serve as a student center, which will have study spaces, a technology bar , 3D printers and a kitchen area.
On the third floor, Smith said developers plan to put workspaces for faculty and students while the wing once used for EWU’s College of Business will house faculty offices.
“It’s a beautiful building. He has big bones. We haven’t seen any structural issues with it,” Smith said. “We just need to reimagine some of the space.”