Several hundred people crowded into the Ridpath Hotel on Thursday afternoon for an early party anticipating the landmark’s return to prominence in the social life of Spokane.
“It’s great to be back in this building. It is a legacy,” Mayor David Condon told the crowd.
Work has begun on the $22 million restoration, which will convert the hotel into workforce apartments, with a first-floor restaurant and bar, and penthouse condos.
As people sipped wine in a space that still has boarded-up doors and bare floors, they reminisced about brunches, prom dinners, bachelor parties, weddings and other special events at the Ridpath.
“My 20th high school reunion was here. There was no air conditioning then, either, and the elevators weren’t working,” said Megan Duvall, the city’s historic preservation officer.
Duvall, a Ferris graduate, celebrated the reunion just before the Ridpath Hotel closed in 2008. Over the next decade, the once-storied hotel – which hosted both Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson and was believed to be Spokane’s longest continuously operating hotel – fell into disrepair.
A convoluted condominium ownership structure prevented a single owner from moving forward with renovations. Former Ridpath owner Greg Jeffreys went to prison on a variety of fraud charges, including some related to Ridpath deals.
Wells and several partners bought the Ridpath this spring. A variety of financing, including historic building tax credits and affordable housing tax credits, went into developing the workforce housing for people earning less than $30,000 per year.
The work of many people contributed to overcoming the obstacles to make the project a success, Wells told the crowd.
“When you come back for the grand opening, the credits will look like ‘The Godfather,’ ” he said.
Baker Construction, the contractor for the project, plans to start on the 11th floor and work down, said Paul Mann, one of Wells’ partners in the project. The first phase of apartments should be ready for occupancy by late October. The entire project will take about 12 months.
The smallest “micro” units will have 249 square feet of living space, which will rent for $453 per month. Small studios to two-bedroom lofts are also part of the mix.
“This is new for Spokane – it’s very big city,” Duvall, the preservation officer, said of the microunits.
Jeremy and Kate Hansen, who own Santé Restaurant & Charcuterie and several other local restaurants, talked about their plans to open the French-themed Ridpath Brasserie on the hotel’s first floor.
Ridpath Brasserie will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at “approachable prices” and “good wine at cheap prices,” Jeremy Hansen said.
Part of the 5,900-square-foot space will become the Octopus Gin Bar, which they envision as a late-night gathering spot downtown.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, and others talked about the role of federal low-income housing tax credits that helped make the Ridpath project a reality. Cantwell has co-authored legislation with U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to increase the amount of the tax credit, which she said is among the best incentives for developers to build low-income housing.
The renovation of the Ridpath will encourage others to invest in downtown, said Mark Richard, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership. And it’s a boost to local residents, who grieved the boarded-up windows and the graffiti on the landmark hotel, he said.
“I think the emotional impact on our community will be profound,” Richard said.
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