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Washington Trust purchases Ridpath Annex to accommodate workforce growth

Wed., July 23, 2014, midnight

Washington Trust Bank has purchased the empty Ridpath Annex with plans to convert the building into office space to absorb the bank’s downtown growth.

The bank’s purchase brings an end to the once-ambitious plans of four development partners who bought the building eight years ago for conversion to condominiums.

The building at First Avenue and Stevens Street is connected by a skywalk to the shuttered Ridpath Hotel.

The bank paid $2.6 million to Scott Taylor, one of the investors who bought the annex in 2006 from the previous owner, Red Lion Hotels.

The investors wanted to remodel the building into 56 units and sell them as condominiums.

That plan fell apart during the recession, as did a separate effort by a disparate group of others hoping to remake the Ridpath Hotel into condos and a swank nightclub.

Jack Heath, Washington Trust president and chief operating officer, said the bank has no plans for a sudden move.

Instead, the bank will plan and remodel the annex to accommodate its growing workforce.

“We saw it as a good opportunity, and it reflects a long-term commitment to our downtown campus,” Heath said. “We were landlocked (downtown) and had run out of space.”

Spokane-based Washington Trust has about 485 workers downtown, Heath said.

The bank has maxed out space in the Washington Trust Financial Center at 717 W. Sprague Ave. It’s also renting space for other workers downtown in the nearby Holley Mason and Peyton buildings.

Washington Trust’s banking center is about two blocks west of the Ridpath Annex. Heath said the deal was attractive because the annex has 86 surface parking spots and 56 spaces below ground.

The annex’s outer U-shaped structure has four floors that once held 77 guest rooms. Those rooms have been gutted, Heath said.

The two-level middle section of the building is connected by a sky bridge to the Ridpath Hotel to the north.

The middle section once housed a main-floor ballroom and conference rooms. The second level above the ballroom has an open deck and swimming pool.

Heath said the swimming pool will be torn out.

“We are not in the swimming pool business,” Heath said.

Heath declined to estimate the amount of money needed to convert the annex into commercial office space. The bank might consider leasing space if that option presents itself, but Heath added, “We’re not far enough along to really think about leasing.”

Jim Quigley, a principal with Kiemle & Hagood, brokered the sale.

“There are not many land purchases available in the city core,” Heath said.

Previous building owner Scott Taylor had listed it for $4 million in recent years.

Taylor said he bought out three other partners in 2008 when he realized the condo plan wasn’t viable. Those partners were Dave Black, Greg Jeffreys and Grant Person, who all had been active in other area real estate projects. Taylor said he never had a role in efforts by Jeffreys and others to convert the Ridpath into condos.

Taylor also said, in hindsight, he should have done more research before getting into the annex project.

“Although I sold this asset for a substantial loss, I’m pleased to sell it to a strong local company,” he said in an email.

The Ridpath Hotel closed in 2008 and has since been the subject of lawsuits and foreclosure actions.

Last year, Jeffreys pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges related to a series of real estate schemes, including Ridpath transactions. He has been sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to repay $9.3 million to former investors.

Spokane developer Ron Wells has since arranged outside investment with plans to convert the decrepit hotel into a mix of midsize and small apartments.



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