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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Dealership alters plans in building preservation compromise

Two historic buildings on Spokane’s storied auto row will be demolished as part of a master plan to build a large downtown campus for an auto dealership.

The decision to remove the buildings at 1023 and 1027 W. Third Ave. came after Megan Duvall, the city’s new historic preservation officer, realized she could use a provision in the city’s demolition ordinance allowing for the razing of historic buildings as long as their destruction supported the rehabilitation of an adjacent historic structure.

The solution is described as “win-win” by Duvall, but representatives from the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies called the process “frustrating” because it forced the company to change its designs for a new Lexus showroom.

“This had been in the works for a little while and there wasn’t a preservation officer in place before Megan, and (the issue of preserving these buildings for historic reasons) hadn’t been brought up previously in the process,” said Sara Waldman, a spokeswoman for the company. “It’s not the best solution, but it’s workable.”

Instead of obscuring the International Harvester Company Truck Showroom, which was built in 1929 at 1030 W. Third Ave., under the metal veneer of a new Lexus showroom, the company now will include the original building in its designs for the showroom. The metal siding has been replaced with limestone and brick in the designs for the new addition.

A surface parking lot for showing cars will take the place of the buildings being demolished, expected in 2016.

The demolition had been halted because the properties were deemed eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the City-County Landmarks Commission in a unanimous vote last month.

Duvall said the buildings’ historic significance was not because of their architecture, but in “the context and broad patterns of history.”

“They really told the story of the automotive history of Spokane,” Duvall said. “The Gorilla Gas Station was taken down, and that was a super cool Art Deco gas station. I know they’re just humble buildings, but they still have context to give people.”

Paul Mann, president of the Spokane Preservation Advocates board, called the solution an “acceptable compromise.”

With the auto dealer’s plans to build a six-block campus, Mann said, a new automotive history might be in the works.

“Larry Miller being there and operating there is part of auto row history as well,” he said. “We wish there were more buildings there. But these buildings are not the Fox or the Davenport. We, of course, would have liked to save them, but sometimes compromise is necessary.”

Aside from the new Lexus showroom and lot, the company plans to expand its Honda and Toyota facilities, put in more trees and street lamps, and beautify intersections.

The company also hopes to close South Madison Street between West Second Avenue and Freeway Avenue North and convert it to a pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfare, which would require City Council approval.

Waldman, the company spokeswoman, said the bike and walkway idea “came from working with the city.”

“We, and the city, wanted to make sure there was connectivity through there,” she said, noting that the company plans are “conceptual.”

Duvall said she believes the company’s plans for its campus will be “a good thing for Spokane. It’s going to be beautiful down the road.” She added that Spokane had a good “preservation ethic” despite the anticipated demolition of the buildings.

“These buildings will be sacrificed, but the fact that a historic building across the street is being rehabilitated, I think that’s a good trade-off,” she said. “The (demolition) ordinance worked as it was supposed to work. Even though those buildings are going to go away, there is an adjacent building that will be rehabbed that wasn’t going to be.”

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