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Editorial: Restoration of Ridpath calls for aid, patience

The Ridpath needs friends.

The Davenport Hotel had them, and through the 17 years Spokane’s architectural gem was shuttered they watched and waited for its rebirth. The friends and the community were well-rewarded for their patience.

Now, it is the Ridpath that is down on its luck. Closed since 2008, the hotel has become an eyesore, a safety hazard and a three-dimensional puzzle. Multiple owners have at least one piece of what are really three separate properties divided into 29 parcels.

Neighbors fed up with the look and smell of the Ridpath called out the city on the problems this spring. Building and fire officials are now fully engaged.

Short term, they want the buildings secured and their alarm and sprinkler systems functional. If the “wet” standpipe in the Ridpath tower is not operational for firefighting purposes, the city has no way to get water on the upper floors. The Halliday Hotel portion of the complex has no water at all, thanks to an overzealous basement demolition.

City Fire Marshal Lisa Jones says the buildings are a danger not just to first responders but to transients who might be trapped and easily confused in a fire. Downtown firefighters took walk-throughs recently so they would not become disoriented.

While hoping for voluntary compliance with city inspection orders, Jones is ready to start issuing fines – at the rate of $513 per violation per day – if the problems are not addressed, and soon.

City building officials want rehabilitation plans, with cost estimates, time lines and indications the various parcel owners have the means to perform. They have 30 days to comply.

A “they” is not going to get the job done.

Local residential developer Stephen Antonietti says he is rounding up investors who can consolidate ownership and support a $30 million to $40 million plan that will convert the Ridpath into a destination resort. That’s about what it took to restore the Davenport’s splendor, but that project had a head start.

Walt and Karen Worthy purchased the hotel from caretaker owners, the Ng family, who were unable to revive the hotel themselves but maintained and even improved its condition. Before the Ngs, there were any number of would-be owners.

The challenges for Antonietti and whoever else might step forward are, first, to coordinate a response to the city’s requirements and, second, to develop a project that finds or creates a niche in a hospitality market losing sleep over reduced visitor and convention traffic. It will take a long-term vision to see the project through.

And patience – the kind the community showed while the Davenport sat silent. Flexibility, too, the kind that accommodated the Worthys when they concluded the hotel’s Pennington wing would have to go despite historic preservation concerns.

But the Ridpath cannot remain a nuisance until grand visions can be fulfilled. Jones says there has been progress.

“Nobody wins if we can’t get compliance,” she says.

Everybody wins if the one-time haunt of Elvis Presley can recapture that spark.

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Editorial: Washington state lawmakers scramble to keep public in the dark

State lawmakers want to create a legislative loophole in Washington’s Public Records Act. While it’s nice to see Democrats and Republicans working together for once, it’s just too bad that their agreement is that the public is the enemy. As The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia reporter Jim Camden explained Feb. 22, lawmakers could vote on a bill today responding to a court order that the people of Washington are entitled to review legislative records.