Two new multistory buildings combining retail and office spaces, public parking, residential lakeview condominiums and possibly the city library could be built in downtown Coeur d’Alene in the next year.
A building with retail and office spaces on the first and second floors and 10-12 condominiums on the upper floors is planned for the parcel that once housed the Wilma Theatre at Second and Sherman.
The height of the proposed structure is dependent on several factors. However, the site would allow a maximum of 5,500 square feet per level, so the building would need to be a minimum of four or five stories to accommodate up to 12 condos above the two commercial levels.
The second building, which likely would be constructed simultaneously with the first, would occupy six 5,500-square-foot parcels - 33,000 square feet - on the north half of the same block, which is bordered by Second, Lakeside, Third and Sherman.
This building would replace structures currently occupied by smaller tenants in the Neff Mall on the northwest corner and Washington Trust Bank in the northeast corner. The bank, which owns its property, probably would remain on the ground level of the development. Coeur d’Alene Mines owns the Wilma and Neff Mall parcels. A skywalk may connect the buildings.
The second building could include bank, retail and office spaces and/or the library on the first and maybe second levels. The parking structure above probably would be an additional two or three levels.
The height and aesthetics of the buildings are very important, said developer Jim Frank, president of Greenstone-Kootenai Inc.
“You don’t want the height of the structure (along Lakeside Avenue) to go above the existing structures on Sherman,” he said. “The view shouldn’t be dominated by a parking garage.”
Although library personnel, the property owners and city officials are involved in the planning process, the project will become a reality even if the library declines the offer, Frank said.
“It’s an opportunity for the library to locate downtown, but not on (embattled) McEuen Field,” Frank said. “The consistent use of a library would add a vitality to downtown.” Considerations for the library would include access, visibility and parking. Located on the north side of the block, the library would not have lake views.
Businesses and the library on the ground level would maintain street life, Frank said, while high quality tenants would be sought for office spaces. Hoping to not threaten occupancy chances for current empty retail spaces along Sherman Avenue, ground level spaces in the new buildings would be offered to offices with the possibility of changing to retail occupants later.
The parking structure on the upper floors on the second building would have 50 to 60 spaces per level. The condominiums would include outdoor spaces, such as balconies, but recreational amenities would have to be connected to other downtown and park facilities.
The physical look of the buildings is very conceptual, Frank said.
“The needs and alternatives are being evaluated,” he said. “We want a first-class building, but affordable. There are 10 pieces to this puzzle that all have to come together into a project that makes sense to everybody. We’re very sensitive that we have two property owners who are very supportive of city and public needs.”
Frank, 50, was raised in Spokane and his parents came from Hope and the Silver Valley. He earned degrees in engineering from the University of Idaho and law from Gonzaga University.
He has been involved with property development through Greenstone (in Spokane) since 1982 and added “Kootenai” to the Idaho version of the firm with partners and investors three years ago.
Barring major problems, construction may begin in 1998, with occupancy early in 1999.
This project obviously would be a boon to the downtown. Office employees and condominium occupants would provide customers for shops and restaurants currently dependent upon tourists.
Although bringing the library downtown would economically serve a similar function, planners would need to determine if Lakeside Avenue would provide adequate visibility and access to this public entity.
The current library location in a central, residential neighborhood on Harrison Avenue is almost invisible and does not bring business to any retail area. However, it has plenty of parking and potential expansion room. The structure could be expanded upward and the Library Foundation owns neighboring properties.
Nevertheless, directors are very interested in bringing the library downtown, and the Lakeside Avenue site is worth exploring.
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