Tubbs land: Housing or natural?

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MAUREEN DOLAN/Press The view northwest across property at the base of Tubbs Hill at Eighth Street and Young Avenue. McEuen Park and the parking lot off Eight Street are beyond the black fence. The property is owned by ignite cda, the city of Coeur d'Alene's urban renewal agency. Ignite cda plans to sell the property to raise capital for other projects. Members of the Tubbs Hill Foundation are attempting to work out an agreement that would allow the nonprofit to purchase the land and preserve it.

COEUR d'ALENE — Mayor Steve Widmyer said an acre at the base of Tubbs Hill features a concept often unheard of in government: compromise.

Coeur d'Alene's urban renewal agency, ignite cda, owns two parcels abutting the northeast side of Tubbs Hill it no longer needs and intends to sell as a means of funding other public works projects.

This week, ignite's board expressed support for a tentative collaboration between the Tubbs Hill Foundation and Mary Lou Reed that would see the agency recoup most of its investment into the land while preserving the land itself for use by the general public.

“I just see it as a win-win,” Widmyer told The Press Thursday. “I'm confident, if the deal can be put together, the ignite board would be very happy to work with them.”

Widmyer is also a member of the ignite cda board.

Tony Berns, executive director of ignite cda, said the agency purchased the two parcels on Eighth Street and Young Avenue, which combined make up about an acre, intending to use it with plans to revitalize McEuen Park. The agency, he added, has $629,000 invested in the land, which recently appraised at $960,000.

Since the property is no longer needed, Berns said, ignite cda's intention is to sell it and use the funds for other projects like a public parking garage in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

“We've got four years left,” Berns said of the Lake District, one of two urban renewal districts under the agency's purview. “There are projects that require agency monies and we're trying to be very strategic as we move forward.”

Widmyer initiated two public surveys — one on his personal Facebook page and another through the city itself — to get a feel for what the community as a whole would like to see done with the property. The results, he said, were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the land public, rather than selling it to a private entity that could create a housing development on the property.

That's where Reed, a former state legislator and civic leader, and Tubbs Hill Foundation President George Sayler come in.

At a regular meeting of ignite's board on Wednesday, the duo pitched an idea to provide up to $600,000 to the agency for the land. According to Sayler, the goal is to raise half of the money through sale of land the foundation owns on Cherry Hill and a grant from Reed's foundation, before seeking grant funding for the remainder.

“It's a key location,” Sayler said of the ignite land. “In order to keep the land from becoming a housing development, we're creating this proposal. We see it as a way of increasing the value of Tubbs Hill and McEuen Park. It will be a great transition point between the two.”

Sayler, a retired teacher and state legislator, said the land could be used as an outdoor classroom. He added his group understands ignite cda has other obligations it must fund, and there is a plan to meet with the agency and city officials soon.

The board, according to Berns, was very receptive to the tentative proposal from Reed and Sayler.

“It's a very fluid, very dynamic situation right now,” Berns added. “We'll see how things start materializing, but the board has not put a deadline on it.”

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