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The Bennett Block has plans to get more exciting and dynamic

Is this the Bennett Block or the House the Hiebers Built?

Dru Hieber, whose family first developed the downtown Spokane block on Main and Howard, looks ahead to a new and more dynamic business center on the family's property. See our Monday story for more details.

Here's one of the renderings provided by Chris Olson, of Nystrom+Olson Architects, of Spokane.


Thank Jim Sheehan and Walt Worthy: new owners take over Globe Building

A Spokane investment group has purchased the historic Globe Building at 204 N. Division St., in downtown Spokane, paying previous owners Owen and Julie Clarke $1.32 million for the three-story building.

The buyers are Globe Building Partners LLC, which includes Spokane investors Kevin Edwards, Mark D’Agostino and John Pariseau.

They intend to locate retail on the main level, which measures 3,540 usable square feet. Also expanding into a section of the main level space is next-door business The Blind Buck. Two additional floors, each 10,000 square feet, will be improved for either office or apartment use.

Pariseau said the purchase followed significant big east-downtown investments led by Walt Worthy, building the convention center hotel, and Jim Sheehan, expanding the Saranac block on West Main Avenue.

The building, originally the Globe Hotel when it opened in 1908, is on the Spokane and the national historic landmark registers. Todd Rothrock, of the Rothrock Company, represented the sellers. Edwards represented the investors.

Seattle author, activist Nick Hanauer coming to WSU for two lectures

Seattle business owner and economics activist Nick Nanauer will give two lectures Oct. 2 at Washington State University Pullman and in Spokane at the Martin Woldson Theater.

.Regarded as one of the Northwest's most ardent advocates for income equality, Hanauer is making those remaks through the annual WSU Thomas S. Foley Distringuisehd Lecture Series.

He speaks and takes questions from the audience at 2:30 p.m. in the Compton Union Building (CUB) Auditorium on the WSU Pullman campus and at 7:30 p.m. at the Fox Theater in downtown Spokane.

Both events are free.

His lecture, “Saving American Capitalism: The Truth about Jobs, Prosperity and Economic Growth,” covers the issues now debated and widely discussed, including divergences in U.S. and European capital accumulation versus stagnant wages.

“I have been rewarded obscenely for my success with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine,” Hanauer says. But he warns that the rising and unprecedented level of economic disparity critically threatens our capitalist democratic

His collected comments and references to his career as an entrepreneur are at

Both presentations are sponsored by the Foley Institute with support from community members

NorthTown’s new look: a walking-friendly north side and shops along Queen Ave.

Some of the work involved in NorthTown Mall's north side renovation started becoming obvious this week. Earlier this year, owner General Growth Partners began tearing out the inner shops lining the north corridor.

Yesterday work crews  from Bayley Construction, of Seattle, began tearing down the north wall that separates the two anchor tenants on that side, Kohl's on the east and Macy's on the west. They are on the side facing Queen Avenue.

This Google map view shows the section of the wall that's being torn out. It is marked by the solid red line. In its place will be a new configuration. See the rendering below, by architects DLR, to get the full effect.

That work won't be ready for new tenants until around mid-2015, said NorthTown Senior General Manager John Shasky.

If Ellensburg creates a public fiber utility, would local cities do the same?

If you're among those who believe that reliable, affordable Internet service is too important to be left to CenturyLink and Comcast, here's something to read.

The city of Ellensburg is considering turning its city-funded fiber network into a public utility.

Still early in discussions, a recent story at the Ellensburg Daily-Record noted that the city will look at possibly using the network for businesses and residences.

Here's a part of the story:

The Ellensburg City Council voted unanimously Monday night to direct city staff to offer a request for qualifications from contractors to write a long-term strategic plan for the city’s telecommunications utility.

The city has operated a fiber-optic cable network that supports information services for multiple public institutions in Ellensburg, from the police department to Central Washington University.
Charter Communications built the network, which the city managed. When Charter asked to change the deal to require the city to pay for use of the lines, city staff determined the city would save money in the long run if it built its own, and awarded a $961,000 bid for construction to Cannon Construction last December. The project was slated for completion late this summer.

Charter’s deal asked for a $10,000 per month lease.

Right now, the city ordinance that established the utility only provides for servicing public entities, as the Charter-owned network did before.

“Typically, for this type of an activity, (a strategic plan) would include a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis for the telecom utility,” city Energy Services Director Larry Dunbar said.

Dunbar said the plan also would also look at how the service would be delivered, and if the city would provide it.
“These are some pros and cons that need to be fleshed out very carefully as this unfolds,” he said.

Council member Tony Aronica called the proposal exciting. He said he remembered how his Internet service was affected when discussions between his provider, which offered Internet from a third party as a bundler, and Charter Communications, broke down.

“It impacts Ellensburg at the business level but also at the consumer level, because there’s not really any other options,” he said. “I think it’s responsible of us to do this.”

Grocery Outlet likes us; new location will open this fall in Spokane Valley

In case you didn't see this item in the Sunday SR business section, let's run it once more.

Grocery Outlet will open another Spokane Valley supermarket in late September at 12115 E. Sprague Ave.

Grocery Outlet has three other locations in Spokane and one in Coeur d’Alene; all are operated by area owners, who buy the business and comply with company guidelines.  The new store is roughly a mile and half east of its first Spokane Valley store.

The new Valley location will fill about 22,000 square feet in a building formerly occupied by a Rite Aid, said Marketing Vice President Melissa Porter.

Two Spokane council changes make it a bit less expensive to build a new home

Spokane's City Council adopted two changes to the building code this week, both making it easier for home builders to put up new homes.

The first was removing the mandate that water service lines had to be done with copper pipe.

That deal came out of work with the Spokane Home Builders Association, who has suggested the city should allow pipes go in with less expensive High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipe.

Copper is still an alternative but not required. That change to poly is based on the high cost of copper, its attraction to site thieves and poly'srelatively simpler installation.

The second change requires new water meters for homes to be placed within 3 feet of the property line and no longer in basements.

The change will make it easier to read and access meters. Additionally, meters located outside will no longer be required to be housed inside an expensive concrete vault; the ordinance allows installation in a plastic PVC box.

The city's Water Department has said roughly 80 percent of builders already install water meters at the property line, which has been the typical rule in neighboring jurisdictions.

Both changes mean home construction costs can be kept reasonable, allowing more new homeowners to buy, said Phil Folyer, a past president of the Spokane Home Builders Association.

The association also cited a study by the National Association of Home Builders asserting that in the Spokane area, a $1,000 increase in the cost of a new home will price about 244 families out of the market.

A quick double shot: inside the Starbucks work on West Main in downtown Spokane

Free ad for Starbucks.

We had to grab this quick shot of the work taking place inside the downtown Starbucks near the Apple Store on West Main Avenue.

I get the impression this work crew doesn't take their coffee breaks here.

The work led to the downtown coffee shop being closed all this week. Area managers for Starbucks say they hope to reopen on Monday.

This shot is from the street and shows the service counter has been switched from perpendicular to Main to parallel with the street.

Any other photos from the project?  Send them to us here at


What do the numbers for home sales say about the rest of 2014?

The July roundup of Spokane home prices was typical: mixed results such as a small increase in total sales, but a mild drop in prices.

Today's story touched on all that. The accompanying chart had me wondering if there's a pattern being established. Low prices in the first two or three months, followed by a peak in sales prices as activity increases, followed by a slump in home prices during the fall and winter.

Here's a chart of median prices of homes sold in Spokane in 2012, 2013 and this year so far. See if you see that trend as well.

Data supplied by the Spokane Association of Realtors. For slightly larger view, click on the graph.

Blue is 2012, magenta is 2013, green is this year.

A big deal: Eugene couple buys Pinelow camp and plans major upgrades

This is a fairly significant investment by outside people, looking to support one of our area's great retreat centers and gathering places.

The story ran in Sunday's Here's the Dirt column:

Nicki and Ron Coil, of Eugene, Oregon, have purchased the Pinelow Park and Conference Center, a 40-acre property at Deer Lake used by many church groups and organizations.

The Coils paid $1.5 million to Northwest District Church of the Nazarene. The land includes lake frontage, a dock, six lodges, two dining rooms, 18 cabins, an outdoor amphitheater and a conference center that seats 600.

The conference center was originally developed by the Nazarene Church in the 1940s. It's about 37 miles from downtown Spokane.

The Coils intend to make the center a year-round conference and retreat location. They will continue to schedule weddings and special meetings or events, Nicki Coil said.

Ron Coil will be the primary property manager. They plan a series of major improvements over the next year, said Nicki Coil.

Erik Nelson and Colin Conway of Kiemle & Hagood helped broker the deal.

Researchers say Vivint, other firms’ home security systems are not secure

Let's take one more shot at Vivint, why don't we?

Last time we mentioned the Utah-based company that sells home security systems, we were thanking them (sort of) for returning $150,000 in Washington state money it took to move a new office and call center into Liberty Lake. The company then left Liberty Lake without completing a full year's operation here.

This week, Vivint shows up in a number of stories coming out of the recent Black Hat security event taking place in Las Vegas. One of the stories from Black Hat this month is a summary on about one researcher, Logan Lamb, finding major security holes in home security tech. One of the companies the researcher said he hacked was from our friends at Vivint. Here's the NPR link.

Forbes has another story on the same issue, but takes the time and effort to seek comment from an IT dev manager at Vivint. It's also well worth reading.

OK, so bottom line. Nothing is secure.  Who knows, maybe the NSA asked Vivint and other firms to put holes in their systems, just to make its work a little easier.

Logan Lamb photo Source:



Hewes Marine still growing at age 65, adding 30 jobs and more factory space

It's good to see a solid rebound taking place at Colville-based Hewes Marine Company.

Booming sales in the aluminum recreation boat industry is spurring the family-owned company to  expand its production facility.

Started in 1948, the company will spend about $2 million to add 19,000 square feet to its existing factory. When completed, the production plant will measure 59,000 square feet, said Clint Kirry, the company’s director of marketing and sales.

Hewes Marine has 105 employees, and the expansion will add another 30 jobs, Kirry said. 

The popularity of the welded aluminum Hewescraft boats made by Hewes Marine is behind the plant expansion, Kirry said.

Boat owners are shifting away from fiberglass toward lighter aluminum, Kirry said. “With gas or boat fuel at $4 a gallon, it makes sense to push a lighter boat across the water or pull on a trailer,” he said.

Its No. 1 selling model is the 18-foot Sportsman. It retails, fully equipped and with a trailer, in the area of $27,000. Its second most popular model is the Ocean Pro, popular among saltwater navigators on the West Coast and in Alaska, Kirry said.

Hewes Marine nearly went out of business five years ago when a supervisor stole and sold more than a half-million dollars worth of the company’s aluminum. Coupled with the impact of the recession, the thefts drove the company’s employment to just 40 people, a Hewes executive said at the time.

Itron signs settlement and license agreement over patent infringement claim

Itron Inc. has signed a license and settlement agreement with a New York firm over a claim of patent infringement.

The settlement is with Endeavor MeshTech, Inc., a subsidiary of Endeavor IP, Inc, based in New York City. Its website says Endeavor IP is an intellectual property services company that acquires and licenses tech services and products protected by patents.

Terms were not disclosed. An Itron spokeswoman said Itron officials are not permitted to comment on litigation.

In 2013 Endeavor MeshTech filed a federal lawsuit asserting that components used in Itron's OpenWay smart grid system infringe on a wireless network patent owned by Endeavor.

The suit asked the court, if it ruled against the Liberty Lake company, to award damages and issue an injunction to stop the infringement.

Itron's OpenWay smart-grid system is sold to electric utilities around the world. It incorporates network components that connect customer meters to devices that send information about power consumption to other parts of the grid and to utility managers.


Former Heroes and Legends will reopen, kind of under new management

A former owner of downtown Spokane sports bar Heroes and Legends is reopening a new bar in the same location, at 830 W. Riverside Ave.

The new business is called 24 Taps and will be a food-and-beverage sports bar, said owner and Spokane CPA Tom Griffiths.

Griffiths had partnered in Heroes and Legends with Spokane businessman Vern Hare. The business closed earlier this year.

Griffiths will be the sole owner of 24 Taps, he said, while the two men are co-owners of the building.

Griffiths said he will open 24 Taps no later than Aug. 23 — the national telecast of the football season opener for Eastern Washington University.

The bar’s food will be “stadium food,” he said, including burgers, sandwiches, nachos and light fare.

Beverage choices will include 13 craft beers made by local breweries, plus a steady supply of other regional beers.

For sports fans, 24 Taps will have 14 75-inch high-definition screens. The business will operate seven days a week.

Spokane’s Rainmaker Creative adding a Silicon Valley office

Spokane marketing and design firm Rainmaker Creative is opening an office in Silicon Valley.

Company co-owner Billie Gaura said the firm’s Cupertino, California, office will open in September, starting with two employees.

It will be an extension of the main office in Spokane, at 107 S. Cedar Ave. Started eight years ago, Rainmaker has 11 employees.

The California office will provide a location for Silicon Valley clients to meet directly with Rainmaker’s team, Gaura said.

The company's target customers are small businesses with five to 15 employees, Gaura said.


Alexis Roizen, Rainmaker’s creative director, will lead the new office.  For the first several months Gaura will work at both offices.

Umpqua Bank starts wildfire fund to help provide short-term loans

Umpqua Bank, which recently merged with Sterling Financial, has started a Wildfire Relief Lending Program to help customers in parts of Washington and Oregon hit hard by wildfires.

The new fund allows Umpqua customers who reside in area under voluntary or mandatory evacuation to receive rapid access to personal loans up to $2,500. The loans will help customers take care of immediate needs including short-term living expenses, generators for power and other immediate needs. Loan approvals are subject minimum credit requirements.

“Communities throughout the Umpqua footprint are currently facing one of the worst wildfire seasons in recent history and we wanted to do something to help,” said Ray Davis, Umpqua Bank president and CEO. “We realize that customers in Brewster and the surrounding areas have been deeply affected by the Carlton Complex fire, with some forced to evacuate with virtually no notice, and many customers in Burns, Oregon, have been seriously impacted. We’ve created this emergency lending program to provide quick, low-cost access to funds to support customers’ immediate needs.”



Red Lion waited for the right time to unload its Bellevue hotel

Today's interesting Spokane business story is the plan by Red Lion Hotels to sell its Bellevue property. It sits conveniently near the Bellevue city core and right next to busy I-405. It will fetch top-dollar because of Seattle area property values.

Down at the bottom is one nugget. In recent years some unhappy RLH investors have been pushing the company to sell the building.

Two years ago, the clamor was supported by predictions the building then would have sold for more than $20 million.

With a new CEO at the helm, the company has agreed to move forward with a sale. And the market is certainly better than it was two years ago — for sellers.

The likely price tag, according to one unidentified specialist, will be somewhere above $45 million.



No plans yet to remove the city’s original skywalk connected to Ridpath

Jack Heath, president and COO of Washington Trust Bank, said the bank has not decided what happens with the skybridge that connects the defunct hotel to the annex, which the bank recently bought for $2.6 million. Story on the sale was published on Tuesday this week.

The skywalk was the very first built in Spokane, approved by the city in agreements with Ridpath owners in 1961; it was finished in 1963 and allowed Ridpath guests at either the hotel or its motor inn to cross over First Avenue.

Under the conditions imposed by the city, the Ridpath was only provided a license for the space over the street (something akin to an easement). The city retains the right to revoke the license.

Heath and the bank could ask and request the city to revoke the license, allowing for the skybridge to be taken down.

Back in 1963, here’s what the skywalk from the Ridpath to the annex looked like

Yep, back in the first half of this decade, people had some grand plans for downtown Spokane. One was the proposed transformation of the Ridpath Annex (aka the Executive Court) into shiny condos. It was supposed to transform that area of town, until the recession sent it reeling, along with dozens of other efforts and grand plans.

Today's SR story catches up with the building, and the plans by its new owner, Washington Trust Bank.

In case you want some history, here's a photo from the Review archives, which showed how the skybridge looked, from the perspective of the Ridpath Hotel. At this angle, you get to see a bit of the recently completed annex. The skybridge is described in older stories of the Review as the first in town. It  was completed the week the photo was taken, March 8, 1963.

At that time, the annex was officially known as the Ridpath Motor Inn, and it was described than as a 77-unit motel.


Associated Painters finishes work on second hangar at Spokane airport

Painting airliners is an expanding business at Spokane-based Associated Painters.

The company, which has been at Spokane International Airport for four years, has just completed work on its second painting hangar.

It's the left building in the photo above.

The expansion will allow the Spokane workforce to grow to 110 employees by next summer, up from 70 today.

 The 32,000-square-foot hangar cost roughly $6 million to build. It has one large bay capable of handling a Boeing 757-300 sized aircraft or similar narrow-body planes.

 Associated Painters owns the building and has a 30-year land lease with Spokane airports. It should reach full capacity within two years, a company news release said.

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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

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Read all the posts from recent conversations on Office Hours.


John Stucke John Stucke is a deputy city editor who helps build local news coverage and writes about health care, bankruptcy and rural affairs.

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Alison Boggs Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on and its social networking accounts.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

Addy Hatch is the city editor, and formerly was business editor.

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