Much of Spokane’s downtown railroad and industrial infrastructure was removed in preparation for Expo ’74. But some areas weren’t ready for redevelopment until after Spokane’s big moment on the world stage.
Burlington Northern resulted from the merger of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads a few years earlier. The merger allowed Great Northern to remove its tracks on Havermale Island, the heart of the Expo site and today’s Riverfront Park. The consolidated company traffic shifted to the downtown rail corridor between First and Second Avenues.
Burlington Northern owned 4 acres on the north bank of the Spokane River, east of Division Street, which for years had been used for storing and moving coal. Tracks ran through the undeveloped property and, with other renovations happening, were no longer needed.
Real estate development and management company Goodale & Barbieri Co. brought the railroad into a limited partnership to build a waterfront motel on the property that Spokane Chronicle business writer Frank Bartel called “among the worst eyesores in Spokane.”
Louis Barbieri had formed his company in 1957 after working in property management with F.M. Goodale since 1937. The company had built the Lincoln building and managed other properties and was about to launch a hospitality division with the new motel.
The transformation wouldn’t be without roadblocks. The Student Environmental Legal Action Group, made up of Gonzaga University law school students, , protested the project’s approval at the state level. The students believed the land was historically significant and that commercial development would take away from public enjoyment of the area. The state Department of Ecology upheld the motel’s shoreline permit.
A public waterfront trail was built between the river and the new TraveLodge River Inn, which opened in 1976.
Goodale and Barbieri built their hospitality chain throughout the region and dropped the TraveLodge name in 1980, taking the name Cavanaugh’s for their hotel properties. The company added G&B Select-a-Seat, now TicketsWest, and the WestCoast and Red Lion Hotels to its business. The company went public in 1998, but Tom Barbieri and David Peterson purchased Goodale & Barbieri back from the public company in 2006.
The waterfront motel is now the Ruby River Inn, operated by GVD Hospitality Management Services, which is owned by businessman Jerry Dicker.
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