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Here’s the Dirt: Joel building apartments to be available soon

Fri., Aug. 20, 2010

Ron Wells is converting the fire-damaged Joel building at 165 S. Post St. into high quality apartments. The apartments will, after five years, be converted into condominiums.  (Colin Mulvany)
Ron Wells is converting the fire-damaged Joel building at 165 S. Post St. into high quality apartments. The apartments will, after five years, be converted into condominiums. (Colin Mulvany)

The Lofts at Joel are a few months from taking renters.

A summer 2008 fire that started in the adjoining building left the three-story building, first built in the 1890s, smoke-stained and water-damaged.

The fire also halted efforts by a partner group, called the Lofts at Joel LLC, to turn the building into 16 high-end condominiums.

Two years later, Ron Wells and the other two LLC partners are moving forward and expect to start showing off units on the upper two floors of the Joel building, at 165 S. Post St.

No cause for that fire has been determined.

After the fire the developers had to wade through several lawsuits and insurance hassles before resuming the project.

At this point crews are installing new walls and floors and getting ready for windows and fixtures. Designed by Kirtland Cutter, the building became the home of Joel Inc., a furniture and design retailer, from the 1960s until 2005.

Wells said he hopes the first unit will be ready for renting in October. The other 15 units should be ready for occupancy in December.

The original plan involved selling the 16 condos to residents eager for a central downtown living environment.

After the fire, Wells and the partners switched plans and decided to make the units apartments, partly because of the recession, partly because they found a way to earn tax credits to offset the cost of the project.

By committing to a historic building rehab, the LLC can qualify for $900,000 in tax credits. But the credit only applies to income-producing property, and condos would not qualify.

After renting the units over five years, the plan is to convert them into condos, Wells said. At that point the owners can modify the units or add balconies – changes that might have forced the building off the national historic register.

It cost the LLC about $1.8 million to buy the building from the Ferris family, plus $4.8 million for renovation and upgrades. Riverbank, of Spokane, provided a loan of nearly $3 million to move the project forward.

The units are one- and two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors. The design allows the outer brick walls to remain along with wood ceiling joists exposed.

Rents will start in the $995 per month range, going up to about $1,400. Ron Wells and Ron Wendle are the project’s architects.

Gallatin buys building

Geoffrey Swindler and three partners in the Spokane office of the Gallatin Group have purchased a commercial building at 103 E. Indiana Ave.

They paid $395,000 for the building, whose previous owner was the estate of Pat Haskins.

Swindler, a Spokane attorney, will use the west portion of the 5,200-square-foot building. Gallatin, a consulting and public affairs group, will use the rest of the building.

They’ll move in around November, Swindler said.

Kevin Edwards and Mark McLees of NAI Black represented the buyers.

Earl Engle, of the same firm, was listing agent.

Bull Mountain expanding

Owners Don and Peter Guglielmino are spending almost $1 million to expand and upgrade the Bull Mountain Guest Ranch in Stevens County.

Don Guglielmino said they want the ranch to accommodate a maximum of 60 by adding a new cookhouse, laundry/bathhouse and nine cabins. Some of the work is completed, he said, and the rest will be done by winter.

Guglielmino said the ranch averages 20 to 25 guests on an average summer or early fall day, and it’s expanding marketing efforts online and in Spokane. Most guests come from the West Side of the state, he said.

“We’re getting into the wedding market,” Guglielmino said.

He said the guest ranch was founded in 1995 on property the family has owned for more than a century. It sits at an elevation of 3,500 feet and overlooks Lake Roosevelt, he said.

The owners are developing a winter recreation program to attract more guests for cross-country skiing, Guglielmino added, noting that Red Mountain Resort is a relatively short drive away as well.

Valley licensing sub-agency

Auto Licensing Plus has opened at 328 N. Sullivan Road, Suite 7, in Spokane Valley. That’s two miles from the vehicle emission inspection station at 16309 E. Marietta Ave.

The business is licensed as a sub-agency of the state Department of Licensing. It helps drivers with vehicle and vessel licensing and titling. Auto Licensing Plus also issues boat tabs and invasive species stickers for Washington-registered boats visiting Idaho lakes.

Owners are Steve and Cindy Lown. They have five employees.

Hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Call (509) 927-4177, or renew online at

TIAA-CREF relocates

The Spokane TIAA-CREF group has moved into an office suite on the fifth floor of the Fernwell Building, 505 W. Riverside Ave., in Suite 525.

Representative Brett Morris will work from the office in dealing with area clients.

Bert Caldwell and Scott Maben of The Spokesman-Review contributed to this report. Here’s the Dirt is a weekly report. E-mail or call (509) 459-5528.

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