City closes Atlas Mill property purchase

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The Atlas Mill site on Friday in Coeur d’Alene. (RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press)

By RALPH BARTHOLDT

Staff Writer

COEUR d’ALENE — One year after the city entered into an agreement to purchase a 47-acre riverfront parcel that was once a lumber mill site along Seltice Way, the deal has been closed.

In a smooth transaction that started last May, the city of Coeur d’Alene purchased the former Atlas Mill property for $7.85 million and the sale was recorded on Wednesday, adding the property to the city’s portfolio.

“There were no hiccups,” city attorney Mike Gridley said. “We’ll continue to work with the community, the people who paid for it, and figure out what to do with it.”

Work to turn the large tract of undeveloped land along the Spokane River into parks, launches and residential or commercial units began months ago and the public and stakeholders have provided an abundance of information through a series of meetings.

Although the end product won’t be worked out for a while, physical work at the site — primarily leveling the ground — started last month and the future of the parcel is the city’s premier agenda item.

“It’s our top priority,” said council member Dan Gookin.

Proposals on how best to use the land include adding beaches, parks, ponds, trails, and roads with the Spokane River as the central amenity, and public access to the river as imperative.

Once a plan is approved by the City Council, an urban renewal district will encompass the project area, so ignite cda — the city’s development agency — can start looking for buyers.

“That’s the business of urban renewal,” Gridley said. “They have more flexibility.”

How much land will be made public and what will be sold won’t be decided until after consultants present their findings to the city in June.

“They’ll have to take a look at the price tag,” council member Kiki Miller said. “That’s really the big turning point.”

In the meantime, the council has entered into a memorandum of agreement with the property owner to the west, River’s Edge Apartments, to discuss a land trade that could add 1,500 feet of public waterfront to the approximately ¾-mile of waterfront at the former mill site.

The land exchange calls for trading a city-owned former railroad right of way of approximately 3.7 acres, that runs through the River’s Edge land, for a 3.8-acre triangle of land along Seltice Way — the former Atlas Mill site administrative complex — owned by River’s Edge. The land exchange would include turning the 1,500-foot strip of waterfront property west of the Atlas site into public land.

“One of the goals is achieving more waterfront access, more view for the public, more public area,” Gridley said. “This would allow for more public waterfront.”

The plan has always been to extend a greenbelt basically from City Park and Memorial Field as far along the river corridor as feasible. The green belt would go through the mill site and — if the land trade is agree upon, an additional quarter-mile past the Atlas property.

“The long-term goal is to make it a continuous greenbelt along the water,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of work left to do.”

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