December 18, 2004 in City

Met tower gains a tenant

By The Spokesman-Review
 
The Spokesman-Review photo


(Full-size photo)

One of downtown Spokane’s tallest buildings will soon bear the name of a company that’s growing in the region, rather than one that recently went bankrupt.

The Metropolitan Financial Center is about to be renamed the Wells Fargo Center, as the San Francisco-based bank moves its downtown Spokane headquarters two blocks south.

Davenport Hotel owner Walt Worthy, who owns the 17-story white tower, has leased 34,000 square feet of the building to Wells Fargo, which will have a bank branch with a drive-up window on the ground level and other banking services on floors 7, 8 and 9.

The bank will move from the northeast corner of Riverside and Howard to its new home at 601 W. First Ave.

The move will begin in 90 days and should be complete within 12 months, the bank said in a news release. The bank branch will be last to move to ensure a seamless transition, said Don Young, Eastern Washington community banking president for Wells Fargo.

“This is huge,” Young said. “It says a great deal about our commitment to Spokane and the community. We now have a building where we can consolidate all our operations in one place.”

The current eight-story Wells Fargo building has been listed for sale with Kiemle and Hagood, but Young said he is confident the bank will announce a buyer quickly. He would not elaborate.

Young said the bank’s 40 downtown employees would move both from the Wells Fargo building as well as from the Old City Hall building on Wall Street into about the same amount of space. However, having everyone under one roof in a building with 10,000-square-foot floors will make operations run more smoothly, he said. Also, the building’s other floors provide potential room to grow, Young said.

Free parking spaces will be reserved for bank customers in a five-story garage Worthy will have constructed behind the building. That structure will also house the drive-through banking services, Young said. Customers will enter the drive-through on Howard and exit onto Wall.

“Today, customers circle the block waiting for parking to open up,” Young said.

In addition to the parking garage, Worthy is planning to install several black granite columns in front of the building, which will support a two-story, glassed-in atrium extending toward the street. The building’s white aluminum skin will be resurfaced to brighten the color.

Worthy said Wells Fargo “wanted to move into one of the more prominent buildings in Spokane and have a greater image. And I think when we get finished doing what we’re going to do to this building, it will be.”

Worthy is working on leasing the remaining space in the 178,000-square-foot structure.

Though both parties declined to disclose Wells Fargo’s lease rate, Worthy said the space in the building generally will rent for about $20 a square foot.

Tomlinson/Black CEO Dave Black, whose own building is just across Howard from the white tower, said he was delighted by the news. “Banks have led the charge in downtown America for years,” Black said. “That’s what created all the big buildings in the first place. It’s super for the neighborhood.”

Black said he particularly sees big changes at the corner of Riverside and Howard, which has been somewhat blighted with vacant, run-down buildings. Now Vandervert Construction is in the midst of renovating the old Lamonts and Newberrys buildings (on the northwest corner) for the Bank of Whitman. And California investors are planning to purchase the Rookery Block (on the southeast corner) and renovate it into a mixed-use development.

“Because of River Park Square and the Davenport and all the other projects that have happened since, it’s just keeping on, keeping on,” Black said. “I can see all the storefronts being full in downtown in another year or two.”

Worthy said he expects the garage and renovations to be complete by mid-2005. He bought the $12 million note on the Met building from the former lender in June, following Metropolitan’s bankruptcy filing, but declined to disclose the price. The building was deeded to Worthy’s company, Spokane Acquisitions LLC, in lieu of foreclosure.

Worthy also paid $1 million cash for Metropolitan’s parking lot at First and Post, which accompanies the building. Worthy plans to build a hotel there, with about 180 rooms and parking.


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