Nordstrom has signed on the dotted line.
The centerpiece of downtown Spokane’s River Park Square has signed a lease, promising to be part of that shopping center for the next 20 years.
“The commitment we have to downtown Spokane is real,” Jim Nordstrom, co-president of the Seattle-based retailer, said at a Wednesday news conference. “Now we can get on with filling that hole and building a new store.”
The new store will partially fill the site being excavated at Main and Post. It will cover 137,000 square feet on three floors - 16,000 square feet bigger than the current downtown Nordstrom.
The store is scheduled to open Aug. 20, 1999. Construction is due to begin in April.
The current Nordstrom store will remain open until the day the company moves to its new quarters. Jim Nordstrom described the transition process as “rolling racks down the street in the middle of the night.”
The new store will include expanded apparel departments, a gift gallery, espresso stand and a cafe that overlooks Main Street.
It will not, however, include a Rack. The retailer’s discount department will not be included in the new store because, as company officials said, The Rack now is built as a separate store, not as a department.
Nordstrom will join other retailers in River Park Square’s proposed $100 million redevelopment project including a 20-screen AMC cinema, Eddie Bauer, Talbots, and Anderson and Emami Men’s Clothiers. Project developers would only hint about other national and local retailers that will join the shopping center. Developers said they’ll make more announcements in the next few weeks.
“If you look around and see who’s around Nordstrom (in other cities), that’d give you a clue,” said Betsy Cowles, president of both companies that own River Park Square.
Citizens Realty and Lincoln Investment are affiliated with Cowles Publishing Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.
River Park Square has been surrounded by controversy since the project was unveiled to the public three years ago. Proponents tout it as the only way to revitalize downtown Spokane, generating increased tax revenue and creating jobs.
Project opponents have taken the city to task for assisting with the project, including vacating one block of Post Street, helping developers finance the parking garage and securing a $22.65 million federal Housing and Urban Development loan for the developers.
HUD money has been proposed for building at least three Nordstrom stores - here, in Seattle, and in Norfolk, Va. Jim Nordstrom said Nordstrom has nothing to do with securing that financing.
“When we negotiate for new stores, there are many different options for developers as to where they’ll go for financing,” Nordstrom said. “It is solely at their discretion.”
Still, he said, downtown projects are complex, expensive and hard to assemble. Existing commitments with other businesses, financing, limited space and parking all add to the puzzle of building a successful downtown project, he said.
“These downtown projects are very expensive and most would never happen without a public-private partnership,” Nordstrom said.
He said there is no circumstance under which Nordstrom will leave Spokane during its 20-year lease.
“We’re committed to this project 100 percent,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo