September 6, 2007 in Business

CdA puts best face forward

By The Spokesman-Review
Photos by JESSE TINSLEY photo

Executive Director Jonathan Coe points out how sponsors’ names will be displayed on tree trunks that are part of the decor in the lobby of the new Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce building.
(Full-size photo)

The Coeur d’Alene Area Chamber of Commerce is getting ready to fling open the doors on a $3 million building that’s both office space and marketing tool.

Each year, about 50,000 people are expected to visit the glass-and-concrete building at 105 N. First St. Tourists will walk up a short flight of steps to an atrium-style room, with panoramic views of Independence Point and Lake Coeur d’Alene. Outside, they can have their picture taken with an 8-foot cut-out bronze heart sculpture.

“It’s all about showcasing the lake,” Jonathan Coe, the chamber’s president and general manager, said of the new building.

A grand opening celebration is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. on Sept. 13. However, the building will open to the public as soon as the chamber receives its occupancy permit, which will probably occur early next week, Coe said.

Architects Rann Haight and Roy Marshall designed the building, which also features a tongue-and-groove cedar ceiling — a nod to the role the timber industry played in shaping in North Idaho — rustic beams and an outdoor balcony. The two-story structure will replace the chamber’s cramped midtown quarters, which were difficult for tourists to find.

The new building puts the chamber downtown, where it belongs, Coe said. “It’s huge for us,” he said. “Part of the chamber’s role is promoting our members.”

About 1,700 square feet of space in the 12,000-square-foot building is devoted to the visitor center, which will be open seven days per week during the summer months. The center will cater to the steady stream of tourists and new residents, who want information on topics ranging from Realtors and restaurants, to dentists and tire stores.

Coe expects the heart sculpture to become a popular picture-snapping shot. The Coeur d’Alene Rotary commissioned the work by Northwest sculptor Gerard Tsutakawa, who also designed the giant mitt at Seattle’s Safeco Field. The heart sculpture will be unveiled at a 1 p.m. public ceremony on Sept. 14.

“I think it will be an icon for the community for many years,” said Heidi Rogers, chairwoman of the Rotary’s civic improvement and public art committee.

The new chamber building was about seven years in the making. Chamber officials had hoped to secure $2 million in federal grants for the building. But after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, that money was channeled into rebuilding New York City. Instead, chamber members raised nearly $1 million through donations and corporate naming rights. Other financing comes from loans.

In addition to the chamber staff, the building will house the Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association, the Coeur d’Alene Arts and Cultural Alliance and the Lake City Development Corp., the city’s urban renewal agency. About 2,000 square feet on the building’s lower level will be leased to a travel agency.

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