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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Two historic downtown buildings will soon make way for auto dealer parking

UPDATED: Fri., April 20, 2018

The historic buildings at 1023 and 1027 W. Third Ave., in the lower left of this image, will be demolished for an auto dealer’s parking lot. A Quonset hut-like structure that was put up after this photo was taken in 2014 will also be removed, as will the old Lexus building on the image’s right. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
The historic buildings at 1023 and 1027 W. Third Ave., in the lower left of this image, will be demolished for an auto dealer’s parking lot. A Quonset hut-like structure that was put up after this photo was taken in 2014 will also be removed, as will the old Lexus building on the image’s right. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Two historic buildings eligible for protection are being demolished in downtown Spokane and will be replaced by a parking lot for a large auto dealer.

Permits to tear down the building were issued earlier this month by the city, and fencing surrounds the buildings.

Demolition of the buildings, 1023 and 1027 W. Third Ave., was approved more than three years ago as a compromise struck between the city of Spokane and the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.

In return for allowing the removal of the buildings, constructed in 1913 and 1937, the auto dealer agreed to renovate the International Harvester Company Truck Showroom, which was built in 1929 at 1030 W. Third Ave., and now serves as a Lexus showroom.

Such a compromise would no longer be allowed under city law, following the February passage of historic property preservation ordinance. Before that bill’s approval, developers could take down historic buildings if they renovated an adjoining historic building. Now, the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission can block the removal of an old building.

“Basically the intent was, if you had two historic buildings next to each other, you could pare something down for parking as long as you rehab an adjacent building,” said Megan Duvall, the city’s historic preservation officer. “At the end of the day, our historic properties are finite and if you need to have surface parking and you need to have it downtown, choose some other place than a historic building.”

Before the change, the law allowed for the demolition of a 110-year-old building at 119 S. Stevens St. that housed an early grocery wholesale distributor, the McClintock-Trunkey Co.

Begun in 2013, the Larry H. Miller company’s development of the large downtown auto dealership have steadily continued, with the recent opening of its new Honda dealership on a full city block bounded by Second, Third, Jefferson and Adams. But the company’s original conception, which called for a much larger campus and full closure of city streets, was met with stiff resistance at City Hall.

What began as a plan for a six-block campus with tree-lined pedestrian boulevards in place of public streets was shrunk to the dealership’s original footprint, albeit with a section of Madison being blocked by a temporary Quonset hut-like structure for the past three years. The hut is also set to be removed with the historic buildings. A 1980s-era building immediately west to the hut was recently demolished.

At the time, both company representatives and city officials expressed displeasure at how the process played out.

Requests for comment to the Salt Lake City-based auto dealer were not returned.

Duvall, who had just joined the city when she had to deal with some fallout from the city’s negotiations with the dealership, said the compromise was “common sense” but expressed regret that historically significant buildings were sacrificed in the process.

She noted that the buildings do have features that make them historic, but had been “changed a lot over the years.” More important, she said, was the historical context in which the buildings were constructed.

They are part of Spokane’s automotive history and are within the city’s storied “auto row.” After their removal, other historic auto-related buildings will remain.

One notable example is the building that now houses Iron Goat Brewing, at 1302 W. Second Ave. The building was built in 1921 by the Transport Truck Company of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, when it came to Spokane and opened its Northwest Transport Truck Co. After that, and before it became a brewery, the building had been home to Modern Automotive and Tractor School, Chrysler Motor Cars Sales and Service, Modern Paint and Body Works, Ben’s Trim Shop, a public garage, Inland Bolt and Motors, Empire Radio Service, an upholstery shop, Utter Motor delivery depot and Midas Muffler.

Duvall cheered the new preservation ordinance, noting that before the change iconic Spokane structures had few protections. She pointed to the historic Campbell House next to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, and said it could have been demolished if a future owner wanted it brought down.

“If it really is a historic building that’s important to town, we can deny a demolition,” she said. “Because once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

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