Construction of a mixed-use development on the corner of Sixth and Jackson streets in Moscow was expected to start this year, but the coronavirus pandemic will delay construction until next year at the earliest.

Moscow developer Rusty Olps submitted a request last week to the Moscow Urban Renewal Agency to extend the current exclusive negotiation agreement schedule to the end of 2020 so he has time to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy and viability of his proposed development project, which is called Moscow Flatiron LLC.

On Thursday, the MURA board approved Olps’ request.

“There’s just so many things up in the air right now,” Olps said. “I think it would be foolhardy to commit to a project that’s very viability is in question.”

The Moscow Planning and Zoning Commission approved the project design May 13.

With MURA board’s approval Thursday, the new schedule is for Olps to submit Phase 2 plans by Dec. 15 and for the agency to approve those plans Jan. 30.

The plans the Planning and Zoning Commission approved last week call for a three-story, 29,000-square-foot building, a two-story 2,300-square-foot structure, a 25-space parking lot, a rooftop with a sky bridge and an extension of the University of Idaho’s Hello Walk from the northeast corner of the property, according to the Planning and Zoning Commission packet from May 13.

The three-story building is proposed to contain four commercial tenant spaces on the first floor. A cooperative work area with 17 private offices, a conference room and a sky bridge that connects to the smaller two-story building is proposed on the second floor. The third floor would have 12 one-bedroom/studio apartments and a space for a potential restaurant with a rooftop patio.

The two-story building would contain a 790-square-foot commercial space on the first and second floors, with a bathroom on the first floor. The second floor would connect to the other building via the sky bridge.

Olps said he will analyze the local economy’s health, including enrollment numbers at the University of Idaho and Washington State University this fall, this year to determine how to proceed with his project.

All seven MURA commissioners voted Thursday to approve Olps’ request for an extension, agreeing that waiting to see how the economy pans out is the smartest option.

Commissioner Art Bettge said developing the Sixth and Jackson property has been “an exercise in slow motion.” Commissioner Dave McGraw said, “if there is anything that could go wrong with this project, it has.”

Both men were referencing the several years of environmental remediation to clean up the property, struggles of developers to start construction and now the worldwide pandemic.

Commissioner Mark Beauchamp said the encouraging news is Olps is not “bowing out” and quitting the project.

“You’re hanging in there, you love the idea, you love being here in Moscow,” Beauchamp said.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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