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KHQ charts course to join downtown neighborhood

October 28, 1998

Television broadcaster unveils design of building for new site

By Oliver Staley
The Spokesman-Review

When KHQ-TV first began broadcasting in December 1952, the station was based in a military surplus Quonset hut and no one knew if television was more than a fad.

Forty-six years later, as the era of conventional broadcasts comes to a close and television prepares for the digital age, KHQ announced its plans for a much more permanent building.

With fanfare Tuesday, Spokane’s first station on the air officially unveiled plans for a downtown facility custom designed for digital broadcasts, which will be required by the federal government by 2002.

Lon Lee, president and general manager of KHQ-TV, and Betsy Cowles, vice president of Cowles Publishing, which owns the station and The Spokesman-Review, hosted a presentation that included the history of NBC television and a taped greeting from MSNBC anchor Brian Williams.

The event was at the site of the station’s future home, in the 1917 building currently occupied by the Spokane MarketPlace at Sprague and Jefferson. Plans call for the existing building, originally an auto dealership, to be demolished and construction to begin next August on a two-story, 45,000-square-foot building that will occupy most of the block.

The MarketPlace will remain open through Christmas.

While Lee wouldn’t disclose how much the new building will cost, he said it will be in the millions of dollars. “This will be a very high-tech building downtown,” Lee said.

A new building has been discussed since 1992, Lee said, and began to take shape last year when it became clear what broadcasting digital television would require.

“All along, our vision was that the new KHQ would be right next to the existing KHQ (at 4202 S. Regal),” Lee said. “We looked at this site for about 20 seconds.”

But the competitive advantages of being more centrally located and the improvement of the West First neighborhood made the site attractive, said Lee.

Cowles, Lee and Q6 news anchor Randy Shaw all applauded the work done by neighborhood leaders to revive an area once a haven for crime, drug dealers and prostitutes.

“This site has already undergone a rebirth, it wasn’t even on our radar screen a few years ago,” Cowles said. “I look forward to being a very major player in this neighborhood,” she added.

Some neighbors were disappointed that the new brick and glass design, which will rise the equivalent of three stories, won’t include shops or a cafe in the lower level. But Cowles described wider sidewalks, windows, view corridors and street trees that are part of the plan.

“It’s a positive for the neighborhood,” said Rick Albin, Spokane Police officer and downtown neighborhood resource officer. “I envisioned little steps for the neighborhood, not gigantic steps like this.”

Staff writer Kathy Mulady contributed to this report.

Wednesday, October 28, 1998

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