Arrow-right Camera


Home fulfills ‘triple-bottom line’

The man who oversaw renovation of two downtown edifices with environmentally friendly features and an aim to build community is bringing those philosophies home.

To be precise, he is using both building methods and physical pieces from the Community and Saranac buildings – from fire-blackened brick to old-growth timber – in his “green” house.

When Jim Sheehan moves into his rebuilt Peaceful Valley residence in coming weeks, a large solar array on the roof will provide electricity. A buried water tank will provide hundreds of gallons for a planned vegetable garden. And when he takes a short walk down a path to the Spokane River, he will tread on stairs made from curbs that once lined downtown streets.

Sheehan sees the home as a model for sustainable building, including reusing materials and incorporating local goods. He boasts it is “probably as green or the greenest house in the state.”

“It’s a moral issue because for me, we’re at a place right now where we have to reduce the human footprint on Earth,” he said. “I’m lucky I have some means, and I can do some things.”

The tan, 2,500-square-foot home with finished basement stands out along West Clarke Avenue. Sheehan purchased the property two years ago for $750,000, property records show. He declined to reveal the project cost.

Sheehan, a former public defender who received an unexpected inheritance, bought and refurbished the downtown buildings on West Main Avenue, filling them with organizations ranging from a nonprofit law firm to an art house theater. Those projects also reused components and incorporated large solar arrays and water tanks.

“When we started working on the Saranac about four years ago, it was difficult and it was a little bit more expensive because we didn’t know where to go, and we didn’t know what the materials were,” he said. “But it’s really dramatically changed now. We just called and ordered all of the things that we’ve gotten here. It’s all local companies, local access, and it’s definitely affordable.”

Last month, the solar array on his home generated 1,442 kilowatt-hours of electricity, about three times what Sheehan anticipates he will use each month. He intends to sell extra power to Avista Utilities, although he expects to about break even.

He also purchased new, energy-efficient appliances.

The home uses radiant heat that emanates from concrete floors made with fly ash. Elsewhere, floors consist of oak salvaged from old structures.

“When we build new construction or we remodel, it’s essential that we do it in a way that’s conscious and takes into account a triple-bottom line,” he said. “We have to consider social justice, economic justice and environmental justice. It’s not just about being economically feasible. It’s about taking into consideration all of the other things that come into play.”

In an effort to build community, the house includes a large room with a kitchen and full bath – “almost a retreat center,” Sheehan said – that can be used for meetings.

Wood for cabinets in the community room, like elsewhere in the house, came from the Saranac.

“This is 100-year-old old-growth fir,” Sheehan said, tracing old nail holes with his hands. “It’s just absolutely beautiful.”

In a small greenhouse at the front of the main floor, and on a gas fireplace, brick from the Community Building shows the remnants of a 1947 fire.

“There’s a whole lot more to being green than just material and design – that’s the manifestation,” Sheehan said. “But the philosophy is the triple-bottom line and the concern for others.

“And it creates a marvelous, karmic kind of atmosphere and energy in the space to know that what you’ve done, you haven’t taken away from other people and especially future generations.”

Bar, restaurant planned on Grand

The people who brought you the MarQuee Lounge in downtown Spokane plan another chic martini bar, this time on the lower South Hill near Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Three partners intend to open the bar, called Press, and a franchise of teriyaki restaurant Samurai Sam’s in a former quick oil change place at 909 S. Grand Blvd., said developer Jeremy Tangen.

The Press name is meant to invoke three variations of the word: the French press (the joint also will serve coffee), the vodka drink and the newspaper (they want to have papers from around the world).

Demolition just started within the last couple weeks. Tangen said he’d like to open the bar in about two months.

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Samurai Sam’s says it offers fast, healthy teriyaki meals. Nearby stores are in Kennewick and Colville.

The shopping complex on Grand, owned by Dave Black Properties, also houses a Qdoba Mexican Grill and a Quiznos sub shop. Starbucks had tied up the former Quick Lane space for about eight months, but released it recently around the time it announced dramatic store downsizing, Tangen said.

Tangen’s partners are Matt Goodwin and Realtor Marianne Guenther.

Reach Parker Howell at (509) 459-5491 or at