Local news

Cowles company to buy diocese chancery

THURSDAY, OCT. 5, 2006

Spokane real estate developer Centennial Properties Inc. agreed to pay $2.05 million for the headquarters of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.

The ornate, white three-story building at 1023 W. Riverside sits across the street from the Masonic Temple and near Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral in downtown Spokane. It houses the offices of Catholic Bishop William Skylstad and his staff.

Centennial Properties is an affiliate of Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.

Through attorney Michael Currin, the development company said it had no immediate plans for the Catholic Pastoral Center, also known as the Chancery.

The diocese was forced to sell the building as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. The money will be used to repay creditors in the bankruptcy – people who were victims of child sex abuse by priests and have filed claims totaling tens of millions of dollars.

Centennial’s successful bid during a telephone auction included a clause allowing the diocese to remain in the building for the next six months. Currin said that Centennial would attempt to negotiate an intermediate or long-term lease agreement after six months expires.

Steve Rector, secretary-treasurer of Cowles Co., said Centennial is interested in making its investment pay, but also wants to offer the diocese fair terms to stay if the organization wishes.

Rector called the purchase attractive for both its business potential and its proximity to other company properties.

The Chancery, assessed by Spokane County at $1.86 million, is the last parcel on the block not owned by Cowles Co. The company’s printing presses, a parking garage, shipping and receiving areas, security offices and newsprint operations are located there.

There were two other bidders for the building, said diocese attorney Michael Paukert. River Run Properties, owned by Don and Steve Barbieri, offered to pay $1.7 million for the property, effectively setting a minimum bid. The other interested bidder was QTB LLC.

The diocese bought the building – constructed in 1910 and remodeled in 1924 for Western Union Life – for $300,000 about 40 years ago.

The Rev. Steve Dublinski, vicar general for the diocese, called the sale a necessary step in the bankruptcy and evidence of the diocese’s willingness to sell property in order to fund sex-abuse claims.

Centennial will take over the property upon approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams. If another interested buyer offers more money for the property, there could be a second auction run by the court.

Also Wednesday, the diocese sold a 2.65-acre property in Spokane Valley for $128,000. It borders Painted Hills Golf Course. The winning bid was submitted by Northwest Renovators Inc., which was represented by Denise Fox, Doug Gore and Mike Lee.

Other properties to be sold include a 92-acre parcel near the Medical Lake freeway interchange listed for $1.5 million, a 1,000-acre farm near Rosalia, and Bishop Skylstad’s home in north Spokane.

The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2004 and is currently trying the settle the case under the direction of a federal mediator.

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