September 14, 2013 in City

Ridpath Hotel on path to a new beginning

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Now you see them. Now you don’t.

A judge has ruled that some of the condominium units and restrictions at the Ridpath Hotel were created improperly – and therefore do not exist. The ruling is under appeal, but if it’s upheld, it could create the clearest path in years toward a renewed future for the Ridpath.

Developer Ron Wells and a team of investors are pushing forward with plans to create an apartment building at the Ridpath. Following the ruling over disputed condo declarations, created by Greg Jeffreys and others in 2008, the building’s ownership elected a new condo board, opened a bank account, drafted a management agreement – laid the groundwork for moving forward legally and concretely. Though financing remains to be finalized, Wells said the apartment proposal – a mixture of “micro” units and traditional apartments – is now close to becoming a physical reality.

“Our hope is we’ll be in construction in January, and we’ll have the first finished floor of apartments ready by the end of April,” he said.

Wells and his partners own most of the votes in the condominiumized Ridpath; their plan for a modern apartment building has been one of two plans in the public eye in recent months. The second plan – for a remodeled hotel – was dealt a blow by an Aug. 15 ruling in Spokane County Superior Court. The court threw out the 2008 condominium agreements.

Those now-invalid condo declarations created two condos that Art Coffey purchased last year. They also would have prevented any non-hotel use at the Ridpath.

Coffey’s appealing the judge’s ruling, through the title company. He says he’s amenable to working out a solution – but not one that involves him losing the property he purchased in the Ridpath. But a larger problem with a hotel plan might actually exist just a couple of blocks away, where Walt and Karen Worthy are working toward a big new hotel attached to the Convention Center. With 700 new rooms at that hotel, would there be any demand for a hotel at the Ridpath?

“Walt and Karen are building a phenomenal addition to the market that’s going to draw huge” numbers of people, Wells said. “Am I feeling good? Yes, because the conclusion is there is no better use for the Ridpath than what we’re doing.”

Wells and his partners are planning to build 236 apartments in the Ridpath Tower, a roughly $17.5 million project. This will include 158 micro units – very small, very inexpensive studios – and 78 more traditionally sized one-bedrooms and studios.

Wells said he expects the massive and complicated financing package to be complete in the next few weeks. He said market studies are positive, and the appraisal for the project was “just fantastic.” The construction plan would proceed floor-by-floor, with new batches of apartments available every several weeks once construction begins.

“I don’t have a doubt,” he said. “I don’t think anyone involved in the loan underwriting does either.”

It’s exciting to imagine what a renewed Ridpath – a couple of blocks away from a new downtown hotel connected to the Convention Center – might do for the energy and life of downtown. The old Spokane landmark has been a drain on downtown for years now, and the factors that brought it to that point were so complicated – ranging from shady-seeming deals to intractable conflicts among owners to Jeffreys’ multifaceted legal problems – that it has seemed like no light would ever appear at the end of the tunnel.

Wells says these recent developments, from the judge’s ruling to the “momentous” steps to reorganize the condominium governance properly, is leading to other, more visible progress in terms of cleaning up graffiti and vandalism, and chasing away the persistent transient campers that surrounded the place in recent years.

“Now we can start to clean up and get the place in order,” he said.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@spokesman.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.

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