February 15, 2008 in Business

Here’s the Dirt: Mountain Gear’s ‘green’ wins gold

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Renovations to outdoor retailer Mountain Gear’s headquarters in Spokane Valley made the building 39 percent more energy efficient than a traditional facility, translating into $22,000 saved in electricity and gas costs annually, the company said.

Fifty-six percent of construction waste from the job – including 64 tons of metal and 3.6 tons of lumber – was diverted from landfills, according to the company.

And the structure recently was certified LEED Gold, the second-highest certification for “green” building awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. That makes Mountain Gear the first Inland Northwest private business to become LEED certified, according to council data.

Its 112,000-square-foot office and warehouse, at 6021 E. Mansfield Ave., is the latest of three local buildings to get LEED recognition. Lincoln Heights Elementary School in Spokane earned Gold, while the Spokane Convention Center expansion garnered Silver.

Sustainable features at the Mountain Gear building include sensor-controlled lights, skylights, an Energy Star-rated roof system, capturing rainwater to irrigate native plants, efficient plumbing and a special liquid-cooled computer server rack.

“Either reusing materials, recycling things like cranes into header beams, reusing virtually every scrap of wood somewhere in the project both saved money and were extremely effective,” said Paul Fish, Mountain Gear president.

The renovation was budgeted for $2.3 million. After delays associated with research, it cost less than $20 a square foot to remodel, Fish said.

“I would do everything we did plus more again,” he said.

Several other projects are shooting for registration, from the Meadow Ranch development in Coeur d’Alene to the Herak Engineering Building addition at Gonzaga University.

A free, guided public tour of the Mountain Gear building and a presentation for businesspeople on efforts to promote local sustainability will be held Feb. 26 at 7:15 a.m.

New Madison renovation permitted

The aging New Madison building in downtown Spokane is slated to become 67 apartments, with about one-third set aside for low- to moderate-income tenants.

Spokane-based RenCorp LLC, the general contractor and architect for the renovation, also is negotiating with a local group for a piano bar in the basement of the five-story building, said Chris Batten, RenCorp’s principal owner.

Owner Madison Hotel Apartments LLC, made up of Seattle investors, has received bank financing and historic tax credits for renovation, he said.

Construction should start in March, with completion expected late this year or in early 2009, Batten said. Work will update the structure’s storefronts, elevator, roof and windows, and add fire sprinklers, he said.

Built in 1902, the building had about 107 apartments, many of them unoccupied. Most recently, it housed dozens of low-income residents and a small convenience store, both of which had to relocate last year. Keeping the building open was costing thousands of dollars a month, Batten said previously.

A building permit for part of the project lists its value at about $1.33 million. Batten previously said the remodel could cost about $6 million.

Community Frameworks

Five of 36 affordable homes planned for a new Community Frameworks development in west Spokane County are nearly completed.

The homes, located at the Takoda Park development at West Hallett and South Thomas Mallen roads, will cost families $148,600 to $160,100, said Ann Price, Community Frameworks resource development manager.

The Spokane-based nonprofit works with families making 40 percent to 80 percent of the area median income to help them buy houses, allowing them to substitute “sweat equity” for down payments. Community Frameworks also helps participants receive low-interest federal loans and deferred mortgages.

Participating families have been working on the houses since November, and they will form a homeowners association after moving. Another 19 homes probably will be started by year’s end, Price said.

The area median income for a family of three in 2007 was $41,500, Price said. The median home sold last month cost $184,400, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.

The last of 28 homes at Community Frameworks’ Greenfield Estates development in north Spokane will be started soon, Price said. Demolition also should begin within a couple months on the organization’s anticipated $5 million conversion of a former lower South Hill nursing home into a 28-unit condo building, she said.

The Chocolate Apothecary

The first franchise of Spokane gourmet chocolate café The Chocolate Apothecary is slated to open in Dallas this May.

For $25,000, franchisees can “pursue their dream of owning a business in which tasting and providing world sourced Chocolate is a work requirement,” according to the company.

Owner Susan Davis started the business in 2005 while a pharmacy student. It now employs three at the historic Flour Mill building. It’s premised on the concept of a “chocolate pharmacy” and the “healing properties of chocolate,” she said.

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