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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Historic Chancery building faces demolition as Centennial Real Estate Investments plans apartment complex on site

The owner of the historic Chancery Building in downtown Spokane is planning to demolish the structure and replace it with a residential development.

Centennial Real Estate Investments announced Wednesday it wants to construct a four-story, 37,000-square-foot apartment complex on the Chancery Building site at 1023 W. Riverside Ave.

The development, when complete, will contain more than 39 one-bedroom and two-bedroom units with modern amenities, a community courtyard and nods to architectural details currently found within the Chancery , according to Centennial Real Estate Investments.

“At the core of all our decisions is a long-term view of Spokane and, in particular, downtown. This project is a continuation of our investment in repurposing sites to their highest and best use,” Betsy Cowles, chairman and CEO of Cowles Co., said in a statement. “We believe this new housing will help fulfill a community need during the city’s transformational growth phase.”

Centennial Real Estate Investments is the real estate division of Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.

The apartment complex will provide much-needed workforce housing to downtown Spokane, said Doug Yost, vice president of development and acquisitions at Centennial Real Estate Investments.

“We agree with our partners and community leaders that housing must be a priority at this time, given Spokane’s unprecedented growth and limited rental market,” Yost said in a statement. “We see a pressing need for housing that’s accessible to our working professionals such as educators, military personnel, service professionals and others who work in downtown Spokane. Stable housing is essential for healthy communities.”

The proposed apartment complex is the next step in Centennial’s overall plan to revitalize the block near the intersection of Monroe Street and Riverside Avenue.

When The Spokesman-Review’s printing operations were relocated to Spokane Valley from the newspaper’s Monroe Street production facility, it opened up “prime commercial space” for a new tenant, according to Centennial.

As plans materialized for the 32,000-square-foot space – now occupied by Dry Fly Distilling – Centennial evaluated options for the adjacent Italian Renaissance Revival-style Chancery Building.

The Chancery Building was constructed in 1910 and designed by famed architect Kirtland Cutter. It underwent an expansion and redesign in 1924 by another notable architect, Gustav Pehrson.

The building was vacated in 2019 because of “safety and operational concerns,” according to Centennial.

In March, Centennial listed the building for sale. The company did not specify a sale price but indicated it would consider all offers. Although several potential buyers toured the property, none submitted offers, Yost said.

“In the meantime, we were looking at other projects and decided to look at options for the site. It doesn’t help to have a building sitting there vacant,” Yost said. “There was a lot of infrastructure work that needed to be done. The building was past its useful life and wasn’t feasible any longer. We started looking at other options for the site as part of redevelopment of that entire block.”

Construction on the apartment complex is expected to begin in fall 2022, Yost said.

Spokane-based NAC Architecture is designing the project, for which a cost has not yet been determined.

The project will be the latest addition to Centennial’s residential real estate portfolio, which includes the M – the former downtown Macy’s – and Chronicle apartments, also downtown.

Cowles Real Estate Co. purchased the Chancery Building from the Catholic Diocese of Spokane for more than $2 million in 2007, according to the Spokane County Assessor’s Office.

The building, which is in the heart of Spokane’s Riverside Avenue Historic District, housed the diocese for more than 53 years.

Spokane Preservation Advocates nominated the Chancery Building for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered Places list to raise awareness about its historic value and encourage its owners to choose an alternative to demolition, which had been a concern of the organization since the property was vacated two years ago.

The building was placed on the list in September 2020.

While the building is part of the Riverside Avenue Historic District, it’s not listed individually on the Spokane Register of Historic Places or the National Register of Historic Places.

Under city code, buildings that are part of a historic district can be demolished if they are replaced with a structure approved by the Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission.

A permit was filed with the city Tuesday to demolish the building and construct the new apartment development. The city placed a hold on the permit until the Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission reviews and makes a determination on the project at a Jan. 19 public meeting.

Spokane Preservation Advocates President Diana Painter said she was concerned and disappointed by the decision to potentially demolish the Chancery Building instead of redeveloping it.

“We realized the threat that (demolition) could be forthcoming, and we have followed it,” she said. “We also sought and looked for people who might be interested in purchasing and redeveloping the building and haven’t had much success.”

Spokane Preservation Advocates will be discussing advocacy efforts for the Chancery Building at an upcoming board meeting.

“We would like to see the building be reused, clearly. It seems like it would be ideal for housing. It’s a wonderful location,” Painter said. “(Redevelopment) would be fantastic, and I’ve seen it happen successfully in other places.”

Centennial aims to design a building that will be an attribute to the neighborhood, Yost said, adding the company also anticipates working with the Spokane Historic Preservation Office to ensure the apartment project meets building conditions and requirements.

“We are excited about that whole block and that whole district,” Yost said. “We have some things going on there that will bring potential for more housing, besides the housing that’s already there.”

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