January 18, 2008 in Business

Retail, office condos planned for adjacent historic buildings

The Spokesman-Review
 
Rendering courtesy of Eric Armstrong, architect photo

This illustration depicts the plan for the renovation in downtown Spokane.
(Full-size photo)

After sitting vacant, two historic downtown Spokane buildings are slated to receive face lifts.

Developers intend to transform the three-story, 23,400-square-foot former Jefferson Hotel, 115 S. Jefferson St., into street-level retail condominiums and upper-level office suites, said Mark McLees, a sales and leasing agent for NAI Black. Undisclosed developers hope to buy and revamp the adjacent Norman Hotel, McLees said.

Developer Jeff Smith, of EBJ Holdings LLC, and Spokane chiropractor Darcy Kelly are renovating the 99-year-old Jefferson. They purchased it as Windows on Jefferson LLC from EBJ Holdings on Jan. 4 for $1.3 million, public records show.

Renovations are expected to cost about $500,000, and the owners hope the “Jefferson Centre” will be occupied by April, Smith said. It will be marketed toward boutique retailers.

“We really see that neighborhood as attracting your artistic-type of businesses,” he said.

Smith said Jefferson Hotel owners considered making residential condos. But, he said, “with the downturn in the market and some other projects coming online, we thought it would be better if we went the office-condo route.”

Units are expected to cost $165 to $185 per square foot. Retail condos could be from 1,582 square feet to 6,870 square feet, while office condos on the second and third floors could be 1,500 to 6,700 square feet, McLees said.

The project will retain the building’s brick exterior and floors, but the interior is being gutted, he said.

The Norman, 1121 W. First Ave., will become retail and live-work condos, if developers can arrange necessary financing, McLees said.

The owner, Old Norman Building LLC, has a sales agreement for the 21,640-square-foot structure, he said. The asking price is $1.1 million.

The two buildings will share an elevator, and the same contractor would handle exterior work on both, McLees said. He expects Norman renovations to cost about $700,000 to $800,000.

“We want to do both projects at the same time to minimize the construction costs, because we’ll mix everything together,” he said.

The buildings are the latest on the block to be renovated. BlueRay Technologies last summer turned the Commercial Building, 1119 W. Riverside Ave, into a Blu-ray disc manufacturing plant. RenCorp LLC last fall closed the Otis Hotel at First Avenue and South Madison Street.

“That entire strip down through First Avenue is really going to take off,” Smith said.

Support for revamping bridge

Bicycle riders, runners and other Centennial Trail users could get a new connection to the Spokane River’s east bank near the Gonzaga University campus if a defunct railroad bridge can be refurbished.

It might cost $300,000 to $350,000 to add new wood decking and safety rails to the closed-off Iron Bridge, just east of where the trail crosses North Superior Street, said developer Kent Hull, who long has advocated the overhaul.

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner recently asked Spokane County to include the project in its Regional Trails Plan as a potential tool to get grants. The national nonprofit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is working to find funds.

Participants in a workshop on pedestrian and bicycle mobility in Spokane this summer chose crossing the Spokane River as a priority, Verner said in the letter to the county.

About $100,000 has been spent on design and an engineering report for the bridge, which is due shortly, Hull said.

The report – and listing of the project as a priority by the county and on the city’s forthcoming Bicycle Master Plan – will help pave the way for grants, said Benjamin Gettleman, regional manager of trail development for Rails-to-Trails.

But lead paint originally covered the bridge’s metal, Gettleman said. If the city were to require stripping and repainting it – an expensive proposition – it likely would kill the deal because Iron Bridge wouldn’t participate, Hull said.

Hull is managing partner of Iron Bridge LLC, which is developing a 20-acre parcel into an office building complex where the bridge connects to the east bank.

The Logan Neighborhood Organization in November voted to write a letter to Verner supporting the project, according to public records.

Spokane likely would apply for grants because it owns the bridge, Gettleman said. But the city has questions about the cost of maintenance, he said.

A city representative couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Iron Bridge constructed about a quarter-mile of trails on its land, where it plans six buildings, Hull said.

The bridge would be important to the owners of the Iron Bridge Condos being built nearby, said Kawal Chester, who owns the building with her husband, Andrew.

While construction delays pushed the condominium project’s opening back from December, she hopes the 12 units will be for sale by mid- to late-February. Several units are reserved, and the others range from 1,151 square feet for $250,000 to a two-story riverfront space for $416,900.

“I’m getting a lot of cold calls now, which I wasn’t expecting,” Chester said.

Renovations to the former Sunrise Wood Products Inc. building will cost more than $2 million, she said.

Iron Bridge hopes to start construction on its third and fourth buildings by summer, Hull said.


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