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

Cowles Co. buying downtown Macy’s building

The company that owns River Park Square has won the bidding for the recently closed Macy’s building in downtown Spokane.

The announcement was made Thursday by Centennial Properties, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Doug Yost, Centennial’s real estate director, said Centennial has a preliminary, “aggressive” construction schedule.

“Ideally, we would love to secure and put in a new retail tenant by the fall of next year,” Yost said.

Yost said the company plans to remodel the 370,000-square-foot Macy’s structure into retail space on the first and second floors. Other floors will be a mix of office and residential units, and the basement may be converted into parking for apartment renters, Cowles officials said. The building is actually three structures that have been combined over the years.

“This is a unique opportunity to redefine a central city block,” said Betsy Cowles, president of Centennial Real Estate Investments, in a statement. “Critical to being successful will be moving quickly so the building does not sit empty for too long.”

Yost said the company entered into a purchase agreement for the building with Macy’s on Wednesday. There is a 30-day due-diligence period before the sale can become final.

River Park Square General Manager Bryn West said the Macy’s building will be associated with River Park Square but will not likely be branded as part of the mall.

“I think it stands on its own. It’s such a unique building,” West said. “It would be more interesting to brand unto itself.”

Yost said Centennial will focus first on the two connected buildings that face Main Street.

The company is committed to maintaining skywalk access to the building but is researching the possibility of removing the mezzanine, to which the skywalks are connected. That would give ground-floor retailers more appealing ceiling height, West said.

New skywalks would be built so skywalks that lead from the building to River Park Square and the Parkade would connect to what is now the building’s third floor.

The mezzanine level was added to Macy’s in the 1950s, as was the pinkish wall that covers the structure’s exterior on the Main Street side.

West said Centennial hopes to remove the pinkish covering to show the unique brick work, but that may not be possible.

“That is so dependent on how the pink material was attached to the building,” West said.

If removing the cover causes too much damage to the brick work, Centennial likely would put a new cover on it, West said.

West said Centennial plans to maintain the historic brick facade on the northern building along Howard Street, which never was covered. That building mostly was used as storage by Macy’s. Yost said that building likely would be remodeled mostly into apartments and a ground-floor restaurant.

West said three local entities submitted bids for Macy’s.

The rehabilitation of Macy’s would follow two extensive redevelopment projects of adjacent properties. Centennial is finishing a new building that will be home to Urban Outfitters, STCU and Rocket Bakery on the northwest corner of Main Avenue and Wall Street. On the other side of Macy’s, the Bennett Block was extensively renovated in 2014. Carhartt Inc. will open a downtown Spokane retail store there in late July, said Bennett Block owner Dru Hieber.

Hieber said she was “thrilled” with Centennial’s plans for the building.

“It will just enhance the downtown experience for the guests of Spokane,” said Hieber, who is also the president of Parkade Inc., which owns the Parkade garage. “Guests that come to our city will be overwhelmed with additional choices.”

She added that she wasn’t surprised that Macy’s closed.

“Macy’s never reinvested in the building,” Hieber said.

The skywalk that connects Macy’s to the Bennett Block and the Parkade is partially owned by Hieber, who said she’s OK with rebuilding it.

Developer Kent Hull confirmed last month that he and former National Basketball Association and Gonzaga University star John Stockton, together with an unnamed minority partner, submitted one of the offers.

Macy’s closed the historic downtown store in March, part of a wave of store closures across the country. Before Macy’s, the store was home to The Bon Marche department store for more than 50 years.

The building on the southwest corner of the Macy’s site opened in 1914; the building on the northwest opened in 1921. For much of its early history those structures were the Culbertson’s department store. They became Bon Marche in 1947. The building on the southeast corner was built in 1955 as part of an expansion and remodel of Bon Marche.