October 31, 1996

Manito Presbyterian Buys Former Library Building

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Spokane restaurant and microbrewery owner has sold his purchase rights to the former Manito branch library to a church after his plans for a South Side brew pub fell flat.

Manito Presbyterian Church will use the library for social service programs, including an expanded food and clothing bank and a neighborhood youth center.

Church officials declined to say how much they paid to James Gimurtu, who won the right to buy the library from the city in a sealed-bid auction last spring. Gimurtu bid $301,404.

Gimurtu owns the Birkebeiner Brewing Co. downtown and two Slickrock Burrito outlets, including one on Grand Boulevard near the old branch library.

He had wanted to the convert the 1950s-era building into a pub to be called “The Library,” but he said the South Hill neighborhood wouldn’t accept his plan for a local gathering place serving beer.

“There really isn’t a comfortable place (on the South Hill) to cool your heels and hang out,” Gimurtu said.

Gimurtu needed a zone change and a beer and wine license, both likely difficult to obtain because of the site’s proximity to the church and Sacajawea Middle School, officials said. The school board has a policy of opposing alcohol outlets near schools.

Two other bidders, including Manito Presbyterian Church, 401 E. 30th, did not drop their interest in buying the property at 404 E. 30th after Gimurtu won the bid.

Gimurtu confirmed that he initially asked for a $50,000 assignment fee to compensate him for turning over his right to purchase the Manito branch from the city.

The second highest bidder was the non-profit Holy Family Adult Day Centers, which helps sick and disabled elderly people in a day-care setting so they can stay in their homes. The Holy Family agency bid $300,001, or $1,403 less than Gimurtu.

The Spokane City Council awarded the library purchase to the highest bidder. Councilman Orville Barnes said he wanted to get the most money he could for taxpayers.

The city real estate department recommended awarding the purchase to Holy Family day centers because it offers a service needed by South Side residents and a health-care use would work better in that neighborhood.

The adult health care center currently leases space at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 2715 S. Ray.

When Gimurtu sought to deal his purchase rights for an assignment fee, Holy Family said no.

The price was too high, and the closing date in Gimurtu’s agreement with the city was so near that it would not have been possible to raise funds for the purchase in time, said Marie Raschko, director of the Holy Family agency.

“Our program truly met the neighborhood need,” she said. “Adult day care is the wave of the future.”

Sheri McNeil, business manager at Manito Presbyterian, said the final deal was negotiated with Gimurtu.

She declined to reveal the price but said the assignment fee was less than $25,000. The total cost to the church was the assignment fee plus the $301,404 bid by Gimurtu.

County real estate records show the purchase price of $301,404 but do not include any documents detailing the assignment fee.

Gimurtu said he didn’t profit much, since he had to hire an attorney to deal with city officials when they recommended selling the building to Holy Family Adult Day Centers.

McNeil said, “It was an interesting experience none of us would care to go through again.”

, DataTimes


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