December 2, 2011 in City

Ridpath not up to code

Sprinkler system is most serious issue
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Stephen Antonietti, left, who with partners wants to purchase the Ridpath Hotel, shows code enforcement supervisor Heather Trautman, deputy building official Dan Skindzier and deputy fire marshal Shannon Millard where vagrants entered the building.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location
Code hearing

The city of Spokane will consider progress in fixing code violations at the Ridpath at a hearing at City Hall on Tuesday.

More than six months after city inspectors ordered the numerous owners of the shuttered Ridpath Hotel complex to fix code violations, many problems remain, including the one city officials consider the most serious: the lack of a fire suppression system.

Three city officials toured two parts of the Ridpath on Thursday in preparation for a hearing next week when the city will review progress in fixing the violations. The city could declare the building uninhabitable, though inspectors said they couldn’t say for sure if that is a possibility at next week’s hearing.

“We still don’t have life-saving systems in the tower,” said Heather Trautman, a city code enforcement officer.

The tower’s sprinkler system isn’t up to code and may not function properly because it lacks chemicals needed to prevent it from freezing, said Stephen Antonietti, who is a liaison to a Las Vegas bank that holds mortgages in the building. The hotel’s heat is not turned on. Another system, meant to provide water that firefighters could use in the event of fire, also isn’t working.

After the hotel closed in 2008, the complex was sold off in pieces, creating a complex web of ownership. Foreclosure and legal entanglements about owners’ rights to utilities, access and other issues have sparked lawsuits and created significant challenges in meeting the city’s demands.

Antonietti leads a group of investors who hope to buy out other owners and reopen the building. He estimated it would cost $32,000 or more to get the fire sprinkler system operating properly. He fears that if the city declares the building uninhabitable, it would force out the last revenue generator in the complex – the basement parking garage operated by Diamond Parking. It also would prevent the owners of a portion of the first floor from reopening a restaurant. On the other hand, Antonietti said, the city’s action could force the owners to find a way to come up with the money needed to make the building safe.

“I’d like the banks to work out in the next week a way to fix the fire system,” he said.

The owners have also faced numerous break-ins and vagrancy problems. City officials have demanded that owners do a better job of preventing unlawful entry.

Some entanglements may ease early next year during foreclosure auctions to sell portions of the building owned by Greg Jeffreys, who faces serious financial troubles from other investments outside the Ridpath. He owns the top two floors of the Ridpath Tower and much of the attached Y building, which is on the northwest corner of First Avenue and Stevens Street. That four-story building was built in 1910 as the Spokane Turkish Bath Hotel, according to “Spokane’s Building Blocks,” a book that details the history of downtown properties. The building served as the YWCA from 1919 until 1938.

A man who provided inspectors access to Jeffreys’ property declined to comment.

The city will consider progress in fixing code violations at a hearing at City Hall on Tuesday.

This story has been changed to correct the location of the portion of the Ridpath complex that used to serve as the YWCA.

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