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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Business

Penney building to get new vision

If completed as planned, the transformation of downtown Spokane’s former J.C. Penney building will be dramatic to say the least.

Currently, it’s a 170,000-square-foot concrete and brick box with only a few windows on the first level. But by next summer, project developers say it’ll become the upscale West 809 Building, with 21 loft condominiums, a second-floor fitness club and street-level shops.

“Real estate is location, location, location, and there won’t be another location like this,” said Spokane developer Ron Wells, who is designing and marketing the residential lofts for property owner CPC Development. For access to shopping, movies and dining, he said, “You don’t even have to put your coat on to walk across the skywalk.”

Located at 809 W. Main, the building is directly across from River Park Square. Architectural plans show the smallest condominium is 1,215 square feet and the largest is 4,620 square feet. However, each will be custom-designed, so units could be combined and change in size, said Project Manager Bob Smith, also manager of River Park Square.

Both CPC Development and River Park Square are units of Cowles Publishing Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

The lofts will have 11-foot-high windows and 17- to 19-foot ceilings, which create the flexibility to add an additional floor, Wells said. All the residences will have balconies, looking out over Lincoln, Main, Post or the alley behind the building. In addition, all come with two spaces in the 70-car basement parking garage. The entrance to the garage will be from Lincoln Street.

Prices for the units will range from $550,000 to more than $1 million. Wells said three already have been sold.

Smith declined to place a price tag on the entire project but said it’s being financed entirely with private money. The reopening of the skywalk to River Park Square will necessitate a move for Boehm’s Chocolates and Flowers, Smith said. Boehm’s will move east, to a space next to Abercrombie & Fitch on the skywalk level. In addition, it will expand to offer more greeting cards, said owner Johanna Julyan.

Julyan said she will miss being next to Nordstrom’s, as she has been since 1973. However, she said she welcomes the additional space and chance to expand her offerings. “It will be a great match with chocolates, flowers and cards,” she said, adding that her new location should be open by Oct. 1.

Construction on West 809 already has begun and the first owners are expected to move in by January, Wells said. Smith said the entire project should be complete by next summer.

One commercial tenant already has been announced. Downtown gym 24 Hour Fitness plans to move from Riverside Avenue into the West 809 building, with construction beginning in January. The club will occupy 20,000 square feet on the second floor and will offer expanded services, including a pilates room, a larger weight room and an extensive cardiovascular area, said Ian Riley, CEO of Oz Fitness, licensee for 24 Hour Fitness.

Smith declined to name additional tenants. However, spokespeople for the national restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and men’s fashion retailer Jos. A. Bank confirmed earlier this week they are negotiating leases for space in the building.

“It’s bad luck to announce before they sign,” Smith said Thursday. He did say, however, that approximately 20,000 square feet of the first floor would be used for retail space.

West 809 was built in the early 1970s by Publishers Building Company, a subsidiary of Cowles Publishing Co., said Steve Rector, chief financial officer for the Cowles entities. The building was sold to J.C. Penney in 1986, he said. News reports show that former NorthTown Mall owner David Sabey bought the Penney building in 1990. J.C. Penney pulled out of downtown and relocated to NorthTown Mall the following year.

Cowles Publishing Co. formed CPC Development in 1995 and bought the building in 1996 from HIP-1 Limited Partnership, in which Sabey had a small interest, Rector said. CPC assumed the existing 20-year lease with Burlington Coat Factory, but that retailer moved to a north Spokane shopping center in 2001.

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