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Cooper George Apartments Get New Lease On Life

Half a century ago, the Cooper-George was the creme de la creme of apartment dwellings in this corner of the world.

Even before the posh new South Hill residential tower topped out at 13 stories - the most built here since the Great Depression - all of its 145 deluxe units were gobbled up and there was a waiting list.

The building’s directory read like a social register of Spokane at midcentury.

Sixteen thousand - 16,000! - sightseers marveled at the workmanship on opening day, March 16, 1952.

During an open house that lasted a week, thousands more poured through the Inland Northwest’s most elegant experiment in luxury apartment living.

“Although the better mousetrap is yet to be built,” raved The Spokesman-Review, “the 16,000 Spokane residents who attended the Cooper-George open house yesterday expressed the opinion that contractor Henry George has built the better apartment house.”

The newspaper published a list of people lucky enough to call themselves tenants of the establishment status symbol at Fifth and Wall. And, incredibly, the paper included the size of each tenant’s apartment.

In addition to indoor parking, the residential tower boasted its own shopping center, including a grocery store, a beauty parlor, a restaurant, a cocktail lounge, even a built-in interior decorating studio. All operated in the apartment building under separate ownerships.

But the years have not been altogether kind to the Cooper-George. A succession of part-owners warred amongst themselves. The building’s shops became shopworn, then closed. Loyal tenants aged in place. The location right next door to Deaconess Medical Center and in close proximity to the entire South Hill medical complex proved irresistible to the elderly. The establishment’s once unrivaled image changed from chic to convenient.

Suffice it to say, the Cooper-George had seen better days.

But now there is a fresh start.

A new owner has spent millions, says spokeswoman Erin Maher, to make the “new” Cooper George (the hyphen has been eliminated from the name) the “cat’s meow” in retirement community centers.

“This is the rebirth of a Spokane landmark,” gushes Maher, a former public relations expert turned real estate agent. Seattle-based Emeritus, one of the country’s leading providers of retirement facilities, tapped Maher, who specializes in retirement sales and was involved in the transaction, to head up marketing and promotion of the property.

The new ownership, she says, simply capitalized on the aging apartment building’s gravitation toward an older clientele to effect a full-scale conversion. A new promotional brochure now bills the city’s most celebrated apartment building as the Cooper George Retirement & Assisted Living Community.

Community? “Yes,” says Maher, “This building is like a community, with each floor a neighborhood of homes.”

As befits the building’s heritage, the new emphasis is on culture. “We’re trying to establish the Cooper George as the senior cultural center in Spokane,” says Maher. “We’ve hired an art director to bring in top community events.

“We piggyback when possible on Met performances, and we have strong links to the Spokane Symphony.”

In place of a shopping center, the retirement community now can enjoy a formal library and music room, along with a tea and card room. A full-service beauty salon remains.

Entertainment events are staged in the large central dining room. The day I visited, the Spanish folk ensemble La Musgana, in town to perform at the Met, put on a show at the Cooper George.

On Nov. 19, Tibetan monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery will entertain with a music and dance program celebrating the mystical arts.

“The mission of the Cooper George Cultural Enrichment program,” says a brochure, “is to enhance and improve the quality of life for residents, their families and the community at large through quality programming, innovative special events and artistic endeavors.”

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

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