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Posts tagged: downtown spokane

Which parking meter areas of downtown get the most use?

Are you ready to pay for your parking with a smart phone?

City officials believe that's the future. They're testing and about to deploy eventually a couple hundred new-styled parking meters that allow payments via apps (or through near-field communication, for those with NFC-enabled devices).

The story explaining the plan ran on Monday in the Spokesman Review (

The city's already paid about $600 for each new parking meter that can handle this type of transaction; they still take coins and credit cards, of course.

They'll be adding space-sensitive sensors later next year, allowing for more specific tracking of open parking for drivers. That will add another $350 or so to the cost of the meters.

Will this pay for itself?  Well, it's already doing the city a lot of good, according to Dave Steele, of the city's parking system. Credit card payments so far have pushed parking revenue in the downtown area up by more than $5,000 per WEEK compared with a year ago, he said.

The city is watching to see where people most use the newer meters. This map gives a recent snapshot of how busy some meters are, and which parts of town don't see that much activity. Green means the meter is generally used often. Yellow means sort of busy. Red means not paying for itself yet.




Tired of the same old think sign, downtown wall switches message

A few years back we did a quick item on the sign that some offices in downtown Spokane could see — the “think” sign between Riverside and Main. A photo from the old view is in that blog post.

This year, back in January, Magner Sanborn creative agency got tired of thinking. They flipped the sign from the old IBM slogan to something more digital.

Here's how it looks from the fourth floor of the Magner Sanborn offices.

Six food trucks will hold a rally Friday downtown, from 5-8 p.m.

This could be one way to warm up tomorrow, Friday, from 5 to 8 p.m. (NOT during the lunch hour as this blog wrongly reported earlier).

Downtown Spokane will have a gathering of food trucks. The local organizers at Downtown Spokane call it Spokane 's First Friday Food Truck Rally.

There will be outdoor heating and seating available at the gathering spot   —  on the pedestrian mall on Wall Street between Main and Riverside, on the east side of the Sterling Bank downtown branch.

Six food trucks are lined up, including Azar's, Couple of Chefs Catering, The Jamaican Jerk Plan, Bistro Box, King of Tacos and The Scoop.

Music will be provided by the well-known fiddle trio the Turner Sisters. That should help keep your feet tapping.

For info, call Andrew, at 509 456-0508.

MacKenzie River Pizza will open its downtown eatery next wek

It's roughly a week before MacKenzie River Pizza opens its downtown food location in the Lincoln Plaza Building, at Lincoln and Riverside.

It's taking the spot last used by Ciao Mambo. Both brands are part of the Glacier Restaurant Group based in Whitefish, Mont.

Workers this week were completing the move-in of the industrial pizza ovens.

No exact opening date has been announced. If you know the date, leave a message here.

Still for sale: downtown Masonic Temple and Huppin’s, each for over $1 million

You can find all sorts of available commercial properties for sale in the downtown Spokane core.

Go to and search just the 99201 zipcode and you'll find about 40 listings.

Two that caught our eye were already well-known: the downtown Masonic Temple at 1108  W. Riverside and the former Huppin's retail building, at 421 W. Main. Both buildings are part of early 20th century Spokane history.

The Huppins building is listed for $1.4 million, and is represented by NAI Black.

The historic Masonic Temple building — a sprawling 109,000 square feet of space — is listed for $1.75 million, which comes down to a measly $16 per square foot. It's also represented by brokers from NAI Black.

We'll keep track of the downtown real estate clicker and watch for sales of some of those 40 properties.

Ciao Mambo restaurant downtown closes, looks to morph into pizza place

Spokane's downtown Ciao Mambo restaurant, 818 W. Riverside, is saying arrivederci, and plans to morph into a MacKenzie River Pizza operation.

The restaurant opened its doors in March 2011. It closed on July 30.

Plans for the transition are being reviewed by parent company Glacier Restaurant Group, out of Whitefish, Mont.

Its now-defunct Facebook page had said the goal was to reopen as a MacKenzie Pizza within a few months.

Notably, the Ciao Mambo ended up in a main level part of the building previously used by a Washington Mutual Bank branch, in the Lincoln Plaza Building. That bank's implosion made the space available for the restaurant.

More details on the next food operation in the former Ciao Mambo will appear in next week's Spokesman-Review food section.

Why do some people hear the ‘Mosquito’ devices and older folks don’t?

On Sunday the SR ran a story on the plans by area downtown building managers to turn off, during Hoopfest, the “Mosquito” devices that were installed in the past year to deter loitering by young people.

If you care to dive a little deeper, here's a link to an overview summary of how those devices work. What makes them annoying to some, mostly younger people?

It's all about the hairs of one's inner ears.

Catacombs closes, as Montvale keeps going, looking to become profitable

A bankruptcy court trustee has chosen a Spokane management firm to run the Montvale Hotel, the downtown Spokane boutique hotel saddled with more than $3 million in debts.

Rob Brewster, the owner of the Montvale at 1005 W. First Ave., filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in February.

Trustee David Gardner, an attorney with Spokane firm Winston & Cashatt, said he chose Hotel Market Solutions to manage the 36-room hotel and find a way to make it profitable again.

Hotel Market Solutions, with offices in the Paulsen Building, manages a number of regional hotels, including the former Howard Johnson at 211 S. Division, and a hotel in Post Falls.

Brewster, who is reeling from several downtown property foreclosures, bought the Montvale in 1998 and converted it into a stylish downtown hotel that honored its early 20th-century character.

Gardner said the Montvale bankruptcy’s secured debts come to roughly $3 million. Unsecured debts include nearly $140,000 the state says Brewster owes in back taxes.

Gardner said he chose HMS to manage the Montvale, at 1005 W. First, in large part because of the reputation of Fred Schoener, director of operations for HMS.

 “Fred has managed a number of local hotels and he understands the local market,” Gardner said.

HMS took over the Montvale in late April and is running the hotel with a full staff.

Gardner also said he’s not certain whether the hotel should be sold or if HMS should continuing running it.

If it remains unsold, he said the goal is to create a payment plan that directs the profits to its various creditors, said Gardner.

He also recently shut down the Catacombs Inn, the restaurant in the hotel’s lower level.

“I could not verify that there were any licenses (for the Catacombs) on record,” he said. As part of the reorganization, Gardner said he’ll consider reasonable offers from anyone wishing to buy the restaurant.

All other businesses in the hotel, including the eatery Scout, continue to operate normally.

Lululemon will relocate to former Cues building in downtown Spokane

Sports fashionistas, this one's for you.

Vancouver, B.C.-based Lululemon Athletica will move to a larger downtown Spokane location later this year. The athletic-attire retailer currently has a “showroom” location at 117 N. Howard St.

Its plan is to relocate to 707 W. Main Ave., in the space used recently by women’s apparel retailer Cues. Cues managers closed their downtown store on Saturday. Cues owner Trisha Thoen said she’s searching for a new location and plans to relocate by the fall.

This week’s Council Connection show looks at downtown loitering, safety

It was only a period of time before we'd have another chance to talk about the Mosquito problem — or the Mosquito solution, depending on whom you ask.

Downtown businesses have again started working out solutions to preserve a sense of well-being and calm in the face of younger folks not having anywhere else to hang out. The problem has led some busienesses, such as the Symons Building, to add devices called the Mosquito, which emits a high-pitched sound meant to discourage loitering. Our big story on the effort ran on April 7.

City Councilwoman Amber Waldref will tackle the topic on Wednesday this week during the regular “Council Connection” TV broadcasst, airing at 6 p.m. on CityCable 5.

The show will feature  Downtown Spokane Partnership Director Mark Richard, Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub, Spokane Transit Authority Director Susan Meyer and STCU President Tom Johnson. 

“The central business core is the lifeblood of our city,” Waldref explains. “Our guests on Wednesday are working hard to make downtown Spokane safe, vibrant and accessible to all our citizens.”

She'll also accept calls from viewers during the show.

Council Connection” programs also can be found on the City’s web site.  Go to

Why is the Spokane Club selling its Spokane Valley tennis center?

Spokane Club board members want to sell the club’s Spokane Valley facility.

Here's the link to today's story:

The former Central Park Racquet Club was purchased by the club in 2000 for roughly $3.2 million. Since then the private social and athletic club has spent about $3 million on upgrades.

The reason why: debt and the need to refocus on the club's main role as a central location downtown, for athletics and social events.

Something not reported in that story: Cory Barbieri, of Goodale & Barbieri Company, said he's acting on behalf of one of the potential buyers of the former racquet club.

He's unable to identify the buyer. It is an investor-based group that has experience operating tennis clubs, Barbieri said.

That guy tearing down Cyrus O’Leary’s looks familiar. Didn’t he do this before?

Who is the guy at the controls of the excavator tearing up the old Cyrus O'Leary's restaurant in downtown Spokane?

It's Louis (Louie) Ray. The owner of Ray's Demolition has been there before. Read the story in Thursday's Spokesman-Review.


A bit of good news: The Bing Crosby Theater will endure, says new owner

We'd hear rumors for weeks that a number of area folks were considering buying the Bing Crosby Theater, a major part of entertainment history in downtown Spokane.

We got the word earlier on Thursday that the deal was done; local property developer Gerry Dicker put together a package and signed the deal recently. We reported that on earlier.

Here's a 1951 photo that shows what the building, at the corner of Lincoln and Sprague, looked like. At the time, it was the State Theater, having gone through a few changes after starting life in 1915 as the Clemmer.

Dicker said he'll maintain the building as a theater and keep the Bing Crosby name.

Photo source: The Spokesman-Review

One third of our survey-takers said they’ll spend more at Starbucks during 2012

The unofficial results are in: one third of the respondents to our Starbucks budget survey said they expect to spend more there this year.

Five of 16 respondents said yes, and you can see the other responses for yourself right here.

Thanks to those who helped answer the survey.  Gotta leave for now, I'm off for my morning cup …

The buzz: Starbucks coffee cards are a solid bottom-line pick me up


For much of the past three years, the Office Hours staff has made its daily visits to the local Starbucks store, plunking down cash for java and pastry. Sometimes the experience is more about meeting folks from area businesses, rather than the Joe.

The Wall Street Journal's story Tuesday on Starbucks highlights the chain's surprising growth in amount of money spent via card-based purchases. A key statement:

“Last year, purchases made on the (Starbucks) cards accounted for 18 percent of the company's revenue. Starbucks doesn't split the transactions by country, but assuming purchases were almost all in the United States, they accounted for 27 percent of domestic retail sales. That compares with 13 percent in 2006.”

What could be driving that growth, especially as the company has been steadily increasing the costs of its drinks the past four years?  Please take this informal survey below. (Click SUBMIT after checking your answer.)


Love crepes? A new downtown creperie is calling your name, will open in June

Judie and Ryan Sowards are leasing a downtown Spokane storefront for a new Euro-styled creperie called Beignets, in the Crescent Building, at 707 W. Main.

The mother-son team believes Spokane foodies are ready for a place that full-service business that serves thin, French-inspired crepes and other lunch and dinner items. They plan to open the business in June.

Ryan Sowards said the name is meant to convey atmosphere and variety. Diners will be served fresh beignets — deep-fried pastries — before the entree, he said.

They’re leasing 3,800 square feet at in the back side of the building, directly behind Madeleine’s Cafe. It’s The Sowards are taking the space once used by Cucina, Cucina.

They plan to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Stephen Pohl and Jon Jeffreys represented property owner Red Tail LLC. Chris Bell represented the Sowards. All three work with NAI Bla

Two historic downtown Spokane building renovations nearly done

View Larger Map

Restoration and renovation are more than halfway done at two downtown Spokane buildings, including the former Empire State Building.

Part of the work at the Great Western Building, at 905 W. Riverside, includes renaming it the Empire State Building, the structure’s original designation. Built in 1900, it’s was called the city’s first fireproof structure. In recent years it's been known as the Great Western Building, at the corner of Lincoln and Riverside. 

Work includes removing the stucco sign band façade above the first floor and exposing the original “Empire State” name. You can see the stucco and sign facade in the Google Maps view above (if it displays properly for you).

Goebel Construction is the contractor with architectural help by Patsy O'Connor.

A new skylight has also been installed, said Alicia Barbieri. Both projects are overseen by Goodale & Barbieri Co.

The Michaels Building, one block away at 828 W. Sprague, is completing interior and exterior work. It was first called the Germond Block Building. The top three floors have been converted from apartments to offices, with final plans depending on tenants.

Goodale and Barbieri owns the Great Western Building; the Diamond Family owns the Michaels.

No renovation costs were provided by the two firms.

Spokane Apple retail store to close for two hours Wednesday to honor Jobs

Apple retail stores, including the one in downtown Spokane, will close for part of Wednesday to allow staff workers to celebrate Steve Jobs. The celebration will run from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

During that time, employees company-wide are invited to view a live broadcast of a Jobs celebration occurring at  an outdoor amphitheater at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino


Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, died recently after a struggle with pancreatic cancer.

Openings: TJ’s, Title Nine and the downtown Sapphire Lounge

Thursday morning new openings (an update):

These two you may have known about already.

  • Trader Joe's will open Oct. 28 in the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center. Good luck with parking that weekend. Smartly, TJ's knows it has to be open a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving.
  • Title Nine, the fashionable outerwear and sports wear apparel company, recently opened a store on South Perry in the Perry Street District. A good company, with an interesting gamble on where it's set up its shop. See our earlier story.

And not least, the Sapphire Lounge, at the corner of Lincoln and First, will do a grand opening this weekend. This is the front-side intimate lounge-eatery attached to the Hotel Ruby, operated by Jerry Dicker and partners. 

The lounge will do a soft opening tonight and Friday. Saturday is more or less a formal opening, according to Dicker. The lounge normally operates Wednesday-Saturday, with the option of reserving the space for functions the other days of the week.

Sante restaurateur Jeremy Hansen did not remain in the executive chef role. An earlier story from the SR described him as the architect behind the Sapphire Lounge menu. Dicker said they chose to go separate ways.

Paul Samson, the bar manager, will still be working the lounge, said Dicker.

Brewster to take over Far West Billiards; his plan does not include billiards

The manager of Far West Billiards, a downtown Spokane food-and-pool hangout, said the business is closing after 10 years in operation. Closing is expected to be Thursday night

Yvonne Millspaugh said she decided to shut down in anticipation of major remodeling that building landlord Rob Brewster is ready to start.

The billiards business, at 1001 W. First, has been owned by Andrew Sackville-West and other LLC partners. Sackville-West has moved to Portland and is allowing Brewster to take over the space, Millspaugh said.

 Brewster said Sackville-West has been an exemplary business tenant in the building. But he also noted the Far West has been late on rent payments in recent months. At the same time, Brewster said he's seeing plenty of tenants in the area also struggling to cover their bills.

Brewster has developed a number of downtown properties, including the Montvale Hotel and the Catacombs Restaurant.

Brewster said he’ll announce  plans for the Far West space in several weeks. “It will not include billiards,” he said.

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

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Alison Boggs (@alisonboggs) 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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