Two Spokane developers are eager to practice what they preach.
Long-time urban revitalization advocates Ron and Julie Wells have sold their South Hill home and are buying property downtown which they plan to convert into townhouses.
They’ll live in one of the eight townhouses at 1215 W. Riverside, dubbed Riverside Court. They also have a list of people interested in doing the same, including John Clute, dean of Gonzaga University’s law school.
“Every mature urban environment has a history of quality downtown living,” said Julie Wells. “You can’t have a vital, exciting city and just roll up the streets at five o’clock.”
The Wellses are known for historic preservation projects, including Carnegie Square and the ongoing renovation of the old steam plant. They also own several apartment buildings surrounding the townhouse site and in Browne’s Addition.
The Wellses are investing about $3 million in the project and plan to begin construction Jan. 1. The first townhouse should be finished by next June, with the project complete by the summer of 1998.
Two businesses currently occupy the land - Business and Office Interiors and DeVries, a moving and storage company. It’s unclear when the two businesses will leave. The developers plan to incorporate part of the existing buildings into the new design.
The three-story townhouses will range from 1,800 to 4,000 square feet and will be sold beginning at $325,000. Each will have two-car garages and open-air terraces with views of Riverside.
“Riverside Avenue is singled out by architects as one of the most beautiful, well-designed and stately streets … anywhere,” Ron Wells said. “It’s a beautiful view.”
Riverside Court will be secured with a gate, and a brick-paved courtyard will be adorned with a fountain. Each unit will have an elevator.
“The site really worked well for bringing sunlight into all units,” Ron Wells said.
Clute said he’s excited about the project and hopes it will convince other people to move downtown. The Clutes - who are members of the Spokane Club and Our Lady of Lourdes parish, both just a block away - say the location couldn’t be more convenient. They’ve put their South Hill home up for sale and hope to move into a townhouse by the summer or fall of 1997.
“We believe in a strong and vigorous downtown area,” Clute said. “The secret is having people live there.”
The Wellses agree that living downtown adds a needed component to a healthier downtown.
And the city, they say, is on its way to vitality. They point to the planned $100 million redevelopment of River Park Square, which will bring new shops, restaurants and a 24-screen cinema to the city.
“I think being four blocks away from a 24-screen cinema is fantastic,” Ron Wells said. “We’re counting on downtown being an exciting place to be.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Architect’s drawing