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Tuesday, November 12, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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City likely to back affordable housing vision for Ridpath Hotel

In this Jan. 24, 2013 photo, developer Ron Wells stands outside the old Ridpath Hotel. Investors in an effort to renovate the hotel have stripped Wells of his authority, citing recent charges that he defrauded insurance companies in the past. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
In this Jan. 24, 2013 photo, developer Ron Wells stands outside the old Ridpath Hotel. Investors in an effort to renovate the hotel have stripped Wells of his authority, citing recent charges that he defrauded insurance companies in the past. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Whether the shuttered Ridpath Hotel reopens as a hotel or becomes low-income apartments may be decided next week in a Las Vegas bankruptcy courtroom.

But a resolution that will come before the Spokane City Council as early as Monday will show which way council members are leaning: toward Ron Wells’ proposal to fill the downtown Spokane icon with 200 apartments, mainly for low-income people.

“This will show that the City Council is in support of it. It’s on the record of us saying ‘yes,’ ” said Council President Ben Stuckart. “It should help close the deal.”

Specifically, the resolution says the city will make up to $1.75 million in federal Housing and Urban Development loans available to Wells as part of the city’s effort to increase the amount of affordable housing downtown while remediating the blight of an abandoned building. The project to reopen the Ridpath as a hotel would not be eligible for the funding.

“It’s a loan,” said Stuckart. “I want that to get out in the community so there’s not a misunderstanding that this is part of the incentive program, or it’s a cash giveaway.”

Both Stuckart and Wells said the city’s written support of Wells’ plan could put his proposal ahead of Stephen Antonietti’s group’s rival proposal to revert the building to a hotel.

As part of his plan, Wells attempted to acquire the building’s tower floors – and a majority of the hotel rooms – through a Nevada bankruptcy court. Previously, Wells had purchased the majority of voting shares in the building’s condominium association, a step toward renovating the hotel. But last year, Wells was outbid for the tower floors by Antonietti, who has been trying for years to put together a plan to reopen a hotel there.

The group Antonietti is working with – Spokane County resident Ivan Kriger and Crystal City LLC – has missed several deadlines to pay the amount bid in the auction. They’ve blamed Wells for impeding their efforts to move their proposal forward.

Now, Wells is again attempting to obtain those tower units of the Ridpath. Having the support of the City Council should help, he said.

“The lender that is making our commitment on the Ridpath, and the tax credit investor, just issued new updated numbers and financial calculations,” Wells said. “They wanted to have (the city’s commitment) memorialized.”

Gavin Cooley, the city’s chief financial officer, praised the council’s work on the issue and said the city’s administration was working to make the loans available.

“I think the council has taken a strong lead on this project,” Cooley said. “The administration has been working closely with them to make sure we’re taking the steps necessary to make this happen.”

Wells, who has been frustrated by Antonietti’s blown deadlines, said he hoped a decision in Nevada would set his proposal back on track.

“We’re hoping next week in Vegas we’ll get it dialed back in with a price that matches the current value, and we can get everything lined up,” Wells said. “We’re very pleased to be back on track to where we were five months ago.”

Stuckart said he appreciated Wells’ proposal more than Antonietti’s for a number of reasons.

“It’s a great use of money. Ron Wells has a track record in Spokane. He has spoken to us about this project. He’s opened his finances to us,” Stuckart said. “Housing downtown is needed. We don’t need another hotel right now, especially with the opening of the Grand.”

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