April 22, 2014 in Business, City

Germond building getting upscale remodel

Developer Wells will build apartments on upper floors
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

The upper floors of the Germond Building, seen here Thursday, are being remodeled by the owner into high-end apartments.
(Full-size photo)

Piece of history

The building at the northeast corner of Sprague and Lincoln is one of only a handful of buildings still standing from the 1890 building boom that followed the August 1889 fire that decimated downtown Spokane. It was the longtime home of Travo’s, a popular restaurant.

A historic downtown Spokane building that served as city hall in the 1890s is being converted into high-end apartments by its owner, the Diamond Parking Co., of Seattle.

Once known as the Germond Building, the four-story brick and stucco building at Lincoln Street and Sprague Avenue will have 18 apartments in its top three floors.

The lower level, now occupied by the Agave restaurant and three other shops, will remain retail spaces. But two street-level businesses will move as two new tenants move in later this year, said Bob Spooner of Goodale & Barbieri Co., the leasing agent and building manager.

The building was erected by Spokane businessman and French immigrant Eugene Germond in 1890, a year after the Spokane fire that destroyed much of downtown. For the next two years, the upper floors housed the city’s main government offices until a new city hall was ready.

On the main floor Germond ran a successful bar, the Log Cabin. Because of its appeal to the area’s French-born community, Germond’s bar carried a unique array of liquors, including absinthe, not found at other bars.

Germond lost ownership in 1896 following an economic downturn.

In the 1950s, the Travo family bought the building and had a popular restaurant there. In 2005, the Travos sold the building to Diamond, which owns parking property across the region. That company has renamed it the Michael Building, after a Diamond family member.

The renovation is a multimillion-dollar investment, said David Maimon, who works for Diamond. The Diamonds hired Spokane developer Ron Wells to design and build out the new apartments.

Wells said it’s still not clear what the renovation’s total price tag will be.

He noted the owners are replacing all the large upper-floor windows with full-size glass, a project that alone will cost more than $300,000.

Renters will be able to move in starting in November, Spooner said.

In the early 2000s, the Diamonds considered converting the upper floors to condos, until the 2001-03 downturn scuttled that plan. The final apartment-dwellers in the building left the Germond in 2006. At that point, the Diamonds started removing interior walls, intending to build offices for commercial tenants.

They slammed the brakes on that plan when the 2008 recession hit and empty downtown offices became widely and cheaply available.

In the past four years, Wells and Joel Diamond discussed apartments and realized Spokane’s downtown core has become popular among young professionals.

Wells has operated a similar downtown apartment renovation, at the Lofts at Joel’s. Wells said the eight units there have remained rented steadily.

“The people moving into downtown are 30- and 40-somethings, often young professionals who are tech or some area of the digital economy,” Wells said.

Apartment dwellers will enter the building lobby at 822 W. Sprague. The lobby leads to a newly installed elevator and toward a grand staircase restored to its original condition, Wells said.

Each floor will have six units, starting from 600 square feet; five larger units will measure 1,200 to 1,400 square feet. At the lower end, monthly rents will be roughly $1,080. Larger units will rent for around $2,100 per month.

Apartments will have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and seven parking spaces on the back side. Renters who need parking could arrange to pay extra for full-time passes to park at any nearby Diamond lot, Wells said.

Wells said the Diamonds have become passionate believers in restoring older buildings, including the Germond. “They’re the driving force behind the restoration of the Paulsen Center” in Spokane, he said. In 2008 the Diamond company placed the building on the Spokane Register of Historic Places.

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