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

Ridpath Hotel up for National Register of Historic Places

The Ridpath Hotel is seen from the Bank of America Center in March 2012. (File)

The road to restoration of the Ridpath Hotel in downtown Spokane reaches an important milestone today as the hotel goes up for recommendation to the National Register of Historic Places.

At stake are millions of dollars in tax credits that would allow Ron Wells and partners to turn the 13-story landmark into downtown housing.

“It is critical,” Wells said of the federal historic tax credits that are on the line in the $17 million renovation of the 1952 landmark.

Today, the Washington State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation will meet in Spokane to consider historic register listings for the Ridpath and 18 other properties across the state.

Among the other properties is the Pend Oreille County Courthouse in Newport.

To qualify for federal income tax credits, properties have to be listed on the national historic register.

Wells, of Wells and Co., said a 20 percent federal tax credit available to the Ridpath is worth $4 million. That becomes a key piece of equity, opening the door to borrowed money for construction, which is expected to begin in January.

The plan is to make those credits available to private investors, who in return put up cash for the renovation and restoration.

It is an incentive that has been used widely around the country, including in the restorations of the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox and the structure that became Steam Plant Square in Spokane.

The project also qualifies for state property tax incentives, including one tied to historic preservation.

Of the 236 rental units planned at the Ridpath, 118 of them will be “micro” studios renting for about $400 a month. The rest will be more traditionally sized units, and the top floor has been sold for three luxury residences.

Wells and Co. has plenty of experience with historic preservation tax credits, having finished 43 other projects using the credits.

In the case of the Ridpath, Wells and partners had to unwind a tangle of ownerships, including those of businessman Gregory Jeffreys, who is facing federal indictment related to business transactions at the Ridpath and elsewhere.

The high-rise had been sliced into two dozen different condominium properties. Wells acquired 13 of them last December that had returned to a bank on foreclosure.

Owners formed a Ridpath Tower Condominium Association and Y Condominium Association last September to bring the ownership under a manageable umbrella.

Wells said construction plans are under review at City Hall, and he doesn’t expect any holdups there.

“There are so many people who have committed time and energy to make this happen,” he said.

Today’s Ridpath sits on the site of the original five-story hotel built by Col. William Ridpath in 1900.

A fire in 1950 destroyed the original Ridpath, which was rebuilt by Ridpath family members and reopened as a modern central-city hotel in the international architectural style.

Wells said famous guests included Elvis Presley, the Lawrence Welk Band, Spiro Agnew, Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale, Neil Diamond and Rock Hudson.

Hillary Clinton appeared at a campaign event there in 1992.

Other Spokane properties up for consideration by the state advisory panel are the Garland Theater, Finch School, the Germond Block, Spokane’s Olmsted park system, Lincoln Park, Manito Park, High Drive and Parkway, the Bauer House, the Hill-Hilscher House and the Anderson House.

The parks department is seeking a broad multiple-property documentation as a starting point for preserving history in the city parks system, said Kristen Griffin, Spokane’s historic preservation officer.

Katherine Fritchie, owner of the Garland Theater, 924 W. Garland Ave., said she is hoping to take advantage of federal tax credits in her long-running efforts to preserve the 1945 neighborhood theater.