First the fountain, now the staircase.
Following last week’s removal of Spokane architect Warren Heylman’s Parkade Plaza Fountain, Drusilla Hieber got permission from the Spokane City Council on Monday to remove the skywalk stairway outside of the Bennett Block, which she owns.
Hieber, who is also president of Parkade Inc., said the staircase located on the northeast corner of Main Avenue and Howard Street is in disrepair and has been chained off during the past few winters. She is also in the midst of a major rehabilitation of the 124-year-old Bennett building and has plans to attract a national retailer to the spot when construction is completed later this year.
Staircases attached to the yellow skywalk in front of the Parkade and in front of Macy’s will remain.
At the east end of the building, Hieber is uncovering the old Ritz Theater, current home of Rocky Rococo’s. The Ritz opened in 1924 and is credited with bringing “talkies” to Spokane. A name change to Cinema ’63 in 1962 lasted 14 years, when the spot was converted to house Seattle-based fashion apparel store Jay Jacobs. When complete, the original facade of the Ritz will be restored while continuing to house the downtown pizza favorite.
Not many people had a strong opinion on the staircase’s removal during the lunch hour Thursday. Few were sad to see it go.
“It’s kind of an ugly staircase,” said Mark Cloney, 50. “I’d rather see the building than the staircase.”
He added, “Downtown’s unique. I’d rather they keep the old-town feeling. If you don’t want that, go to the Valley Mall.”
Judging by the men in hardhats, new windows and Tyvek commercial wrap, construction is well underway to restore the block. Hieber, who is paying for the staircase’s removal, said work on the stairs will begin later this month.
Anything done to affect skywalks in Spokane must be approved by the City Council, including the planned walk between the under-construction Grand Hotel Spokane and the convention center.
During Monday’s meeting, Councilman Jon Snyder said removing the stairway was a good case for when government should “just get out of the way and let something happen.”