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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Elegant Kempis Apartment House Restored As Luxury Suites

Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Revi

A new option in luxury lodgings for corporate executives opened this week in a glorious old apartment building on Spokane’s lower South Hill.

The Kempis Executive Suites cater to extended-stay business travelers and others desiring the efficiency and convenience of a fine hotel, plus the comfort and intimacy of a beautifully appointed home.

Two years in the restoration and refurbishing, the glorious 1906-vintage architectural treasure at 523 S. Washington has it all and then some. It is breathtaking.

Owners Michael and Sarah Michalko deserve a medal from the historic preservation fraternity for what they have achieved in this elegant early-day apartment house for Spokane’s upper crust.

Fourteen apartment suites - each lavishly furnished with turn-of-the-century antiques and fine pieces of authentic decor from the period - feature spacious living rooms, formal dining rooms, cozy bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens and baths.

The Kempis offers a complimentary continental breakfast, as well as a wide range of on-site business and personal services and amenities. Included are a business center, conference room, and work-out facilities.

For those with a passion for golden oldies, this majestic continental-style hostel offers a romantic weekend retreat or charming second-honeymoon getaway in the heart of the city. Room rates start at $280 per night.

The structure was built, according to the Michalkos, by Mrs. C. J. (Maude) Kemp. Her family operated one of the Inland Northwest’s most important early-day retail establishments, the renowned Kemp & Hebert Department Store.

For the benefit of architectural buffs, the designer of The Kempis was Alfred Jones of the Spokane firm Jones & Levesque.

A large ornamental fountain in the lobby puts a visitor in mind of the larger fountain in the lobby of Spokane’s grand old Davenport Hotel. Indeed, there are a number of resemblances in the richness of the interiors. At The Kempis, majestic marbleized columns ring the lobby level of a cavernous, open, central rotunda rising three stories to massive natural skylight, surrounded by a faux gold-leaf frieze in bas-relief.

Majestic murals covering the walls might be 100 years old, but in fact are the recent artwork of Spokane’s Michael Connerly, restorer of many of the Davenport Hotel’s ornate embellishments.

The stately exterior Italianate design of The Kempis was copied, according to a history pieced together by the new owners, from a postcard of an ancient hotel in Venice.

In addition to the 14 extended-stay suites, The Kempis has nine permanent apartment quarters, three of which are occupied. They rent for $600 to $1,300 a month.

Health care companies merge

Three Washington health care companies merged last week. First Choice Health Plan, Health First Partners and Health Washington consolidated operations July 1.

In Spokane and Eastern Washington, members of group health plans marketed to employers by Health First Partners have a new insurance carrier. “There is no change in their benefits,” Nancy Cortez, spokesperson for the consolidated companies, assured me. “In effect, beneficiaries have a new administrator, but the same plan.”

The consolidation adds about 18,000 members to First Choice’s enrollment. Cortez said she did not know how many of these members are located in this area.

First Choice Health Plan is an affiliate of First Choice Health Network, Inc., largest preferred provider organization (PPO) in Washington, with more than 430,000 members statewide.

Spokane retail sales lag behind state rate

The gross income of Washington businesses rose nearly 8 percent last year, reflecting what the state Department of Revenue calls a “a booming 1996 economy” in its just released annual report.

Gross sales gained more than 6 percent.

“While taxable retail sales increased only 3.2 percent - the growth rate was nearly a percentage point greater than in 1995,” says the report.

In the metropolitan Spokane market, total taxable retail sales (including manufacturing, construction, insurance and real estate) lagged behind the statewide average - rising just 2.8 percent. Sales by just retailers fared worse, posting a gain of 1.9 percent, roughly equal to the rate of inflation.

Inside the city limits of Spokane, the dollar volume of total taxable retail sales rose 1 percent and sales by retailers increased less than 1 percent, as inflation-adjusted sales volume failed to keep pace with year-ago totals.

State analysts underscored soaring increases in nursery and landscaping sales, and in the electronic and music trade. “Conversely,” they reported, “retail income from candy sales was way down - declining 17.3 percent.”

Neighboring Whitman led the state’s 39 counties with a sales gain of 10 percent. Kent topped the cities, with an increase exceeding 18 percent.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes a notes column each Wednesday. If you have business items of regional interest for future columns, call 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes a notes column each Wednesday. If you have business items of regional interest for future columns, call 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review