After years of false starts the Otis Hotel may finally have a buyer as an Oregon poker player offers renovation plans to turn the building into small apartments.
Curtis Rystadt is a former mortgage broker and owns several properties in Oregon. He met with city officials last month to discuss what work needs to be done to bring the building up to city code.
“I’m optimistic, but we don’t own the property (yet),” he said.
The preliminary plan calls for more than 100 apartments on floors two through five. Rystadt would like to have a small grocery store on the first floor.
According to a model floor plan, units would be between 249 square feet and 529 square feet, with the largest apartments on the exterior of the five-story building.
Rystadt hopes to attract “young up and coming professionals” who don’t mind living in a small apartment and want to be near downtown. The basement would be storage space for tenants.
“I don’t think there is a demand for three-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments,” he said.
Rystadt is under contract to buy the building, but the sale isn’t finalized. The property is still owned by Coastal Community Bank, according to property records. The bank bought the property in 2007 for $2.1 million.
Dean Giles, the acting building official for the city, said he met with Randy Vanhoff, an architect at Spokane-based ZBA Architecture, and Rystadt to discuss what the building needs to be in compliance with city codes.
Vanhoff did not immediately return an email requesting comment.
“This is just very preliminary at this stage,” Giles said, adding later, “He is just looking at what would be required. We walked through some of the building and fire code concerns.”
Because the building has been neglected for so long, Giles said there is a substantial amount of work that would need to be done to bring it up to code. However, he said the meeting “seemed pretty positive.”
He expects to see a more detailed architectural plan soon.
The project’s estimated start date is July and could cost around $4.5 million, according to the document filed with the city.
Attorneys and real estate agents told The Spokesman-Review in October that it would cost millions to renovate the building. One company estimated in March 2013 that it would cost at least $1 million just to remove the mold that has collected in the years since the old hotel was vacated.
However, Rystadt said he toured the building last month and there is no longer any mold after it was sprayed.
“That was a hurdle to overcome that we overcame,” he said.
As for other renovation costs, he’s confident he can do it for cheaper than projected.
“Where other people see problems I see opportunities,” he said.
Built in 1911, the Otis has been empty since 2007 when dozens of low-income residents were forced out after an investment group purchased the property. A number of factors, including the 2008 economic crash, halted renovation plans.
Other than being used as a set for a zombie apocalypse television show filmed in Spokane, the building has sat empty. In June 2014 sidewalks around the building were blocked off to prevent transients and others from entering.
“Yeah it’s a shame that it’s just sitting there vacant and deteriorating,” Giles said.
Giles said the building’s structure is solid. However, the plumbing and electrical systems are in bad shape. A fire sprinkler system would need to be installed, and the building exits may need to be renovated.
Also, any renovations will have to respect the historic nature of the building, Rystadt said.
“I want it to be a place that people are excited and happy to live,” he said.
Rystadt, an avid poker player, gained some notoriety for trash talking at the poker table at the World Series of Poker in 2014. He called that “an interesting experience” and says the videos were selectively edited from more than 10 hours of footage.
The Portland native grew up in the construction business, is fluent in Spanish and doesn’t “mind rolling up my sleeves and taking on a project.”
He worked as an investment broker before getting into real estate. Recently he rehabbed the Columbia View Apartments in Hood River, Oregon. That experience, he said, would serve him well at the Otis Hotel.
“I’m the right guy for the job,” he said. “If I can’t do it nobody can do it.”
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