Comet Press goes condo

When Heather Hanley returned to Spokane six years ago, she began looking for an old building to buy. She had dreamed of living and working in the same place.

Last year, she found the place — the former Comet Press building at the corner of Washington Street and First Avenue in downtown Spokane. Hanley and her partners, Michael and Samantha Guthrie, and her father, Jim Hanley, purchased the building for $725,000 in July, Spokane County property records show. Their company is Lombard Living LLC.

The foursome plans to convert the upper two floors into at least five two-story condominiums and the ground floor into two 3,000-square-foot retail bays. One of the bays will hold a spin-off of the Hanleys’ Tin Roof furniture store, which is located at 1711 E. Sprague Ave. The other bay would make a great coffee shop, Heather Hanley said.

The building’s conversion into condominiums will extend the residential units available for sale on that block. The Minnesota and Oakley buildings to the west contain eight apartments that are being converted to condominiums by attorney Steve Eugster, along with his two brothers and business partner, Al Blalock. Those units range in size from 750 square feet to 1,000 square feet and in price from $170,000 to $220,000, Blalock said.

The new condos join a growing number of projects proposed for the downtown core. From 2000 to 2005, only 85 new residential units were proposed downtown, said Susanne Croft, of the city’s economic development division. So far in 2006, some 259 new residential units are on the books, Croft said. A 2003 housing study found that downtown could absorb 300 new residences a year for five years. This is the first year the city has approached that, Croft said.

The condominiums planned by the Hanleys and the Guthries will range from 1,200 square feet to about 3,000 square feet, Heather Hanley said. All the units will have two stories and will be offered for sale as unfinished space. The units will have bathroom and exterior walls, electricity and plumbing, but the new owners will need to install fixtures and complete any additional framing, Hanley said. Limited covered parking will be available behind the building. Prices haven’t been set yet.

“It’s kind of for that ‘do-it-yourselfer,’” Hanley said. “The idea is to keep it more reasonable, and more raw so you can finish it out yourself. There’s not a lot out there for people who have their own vision of what they want their space to look like.”

Heather Hanley plans to live in one of the units and to make her home a showcase for her furniture store and for new high-tech audio-visual equipment, showing the merchandise by appointment only. She got the idea from a New York City townhouse called The Apartment, which looks like a home, but is actually a store. In her store, she plans to feature platform beds and compact sofas, along with custom-designed sofas in many sizes and fabrics. The furniture will be contemporary and designed for smaller living spaces.

The partners plan to keep the building’s brick façade but remove the blue metal from the front of the building to reveal existing windows, Hanley said. They’ll also replace the windows and install dark casings in an effort to highlight the building’s original character, she said.

“We just kind of saw the diamond in the rough,” said Samantha Guthrie, who owns Cypress Advantage, an ATM machine sales business, with her husband, Michael. “It’s been boarded up for so long, but there’s so much happening within that two-block radius. It would be nice to extend that whole downtown area for people who want to walk down that street.”

Interior demolition should be complete by the end of next week, said Michael Guthrie. The partners hope to complete the conversion within a year, he said. “It looked like a good idea in the revitalization of downtown Spokane,” he said. “It looked like a good opportunity.”

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