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Downtown Spokane developer bringing back the Bickett

Developer Jed Conklin has remodeled the Bickett Hotel into apartments. It was built in 1905. (Colin Mulvany)
Developer Jed Conklin has remodeled the Bickett Hotel into apartments. It was built in 1905. (Colin Mulvany)

A three-story brick building on the east end of downtown Spokane is being renovated into ground floor commercial space and eight new apartments on the upper floors.

The project is the work of Jed Conklin, who has put two years of his own labor into bringing the 1905 Bickett Hotel Building back to life.

Conklin is a freelance photographer who previously worked for The Spokesman-Review until 2007 when the newspaper underwent staff reductions.

Conklin said he bought the building with the encouragement of Dan Spalding, the owner of the Longbotham Building on West Main Avenue and other restorations in the east downtown area. “It’s scary, but you just have to do it,” Conklin said of his decision to seek bank financing so he could buy the building and put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the restoration.

“Dan made this whole thing possible for me,” he said.

Conklin, 37, said he wants to create the same sense of community that has emerged on West Main, in part through Spalding’s vision.

To that end, he is holding an open house today from 4 to 8 p.m. with free beer, hot dogs and live music.

To get the project underway, Conklin hired a structural engineer to make sure that any major renovations would be sound.

He worked with city staff to meet building codes, agreeing to install sprinklers and fire alarms to avoid a long list of other fire mitigation measures.

He saved fir flooring and old structural timbers and is reusing them in the apartments. Conklin welded metal framework for a staircase in one of the upper-floor apartments, using pieces of recycled floor timbers for the steps.

A two-story central hallway was brought back to nearly original condition with an elegant wooden staircase, banisters and fir flooring. An overhead skylight lights the space naturally. Missing pieces of woodwork were recreated by a Spokane carpenter.

“A building this old and this cool deserves to keep its character,” Conklin said. “We splurged on the details in order to keep the project classy.”

The apartments range in size from 550 to 1,050 square feet. Some have already been rented pending completion of the project. The apartments are each made up of several former hotel rooms.

Tenants will have access to balconies and a community deck on the south side. “This adds a huge amount of value to these apartments,” he said.

Conklin, through his Bickett LLC, finalized his purchase of the building from Spalding in February for $370,800. Spalding had acquired the Bickett, 225 W. Riverside Ave., and adjoining Richmond Building following a bank foreclosure on the property, which was previously owned by developer Rob Brewster, who defaulted on his Spokane properties.

The Richmond Building, 228 W. Sprague Ave., adjoins the Bickett Building across a vacated alleyway between Riverside and Sprague.

Historically, the Bickett Hotel lasted in name for only five years, becoming the Hotel Leland, Waldorf Hotel and Waldorf Apartments in succession. The commercial space housed Bell Furniture and later Sylvan Furniture, Conklin said.

The building is part of the national East Downtown Historic District and is on the Spokane Register of Historic Places as part of the Mearow Block. Conklin said he is seeking historic tax incentives to help make the project pencil out.

Conklin said he hopes that the building will eventually generate enough income so he can resume his passion for photography, which he put on hold to become a downtown building owner. He credits Spalding and others, including workers who are helping in the restoration, for making the project happen.

“Everybody’s been awesome,” he said.