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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission to require additional design review for proposed apartments on Chancery Building site

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 20, 2022

Centennial Real Estate Investments’ plans to demolish the historic Chancery Building remain on hold until it can refine the design of a proposed residential development on the site.

The Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to require a second review of the planned apartment complex with suggestions to change the building’s color and materials.

Centennial filed a permit with the city in November to demolish the Chancery Building and replace it with a four-story, 37,000-square-foot residential development. The city placed a hold on the permit until the Landmarks Commission reviewed and made a decision on the proposed residential development.

Although the Chancery Building at 1023 W. Riverside Ave., 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 Landmarks Commission.

The Landmarks Commission, however, does not have authority to deny or delay demolition of a building.

Some members of the Landmarks Commission and the public expressed concern about the type of materials incorporated in the residential development’s design.

While other buildings in the Riverside Avenue Historic District consist of brick, stone and tile, the proposed residential development would include “midrange construction materials” such as metal panels, Cordova stone and vinyl windows, according to a Landmarks Commission staff report.

The staff report suggested that Centennial consider reducing different materials on the building to make it more compatible with other structures in the Riverside Avenue Historic District.

“I think there’s just way too many materials occurring on that building and I think it’s a step in the right direction if it was simplified,” meeting attendee Sev Jones said.

Jones said the proposed residential development is a “very modern building” that he would expect to see in Kendall Yards.

“I think it’s a very nice-looking building. I think it has got its place, but I do not believe that style of the building complements (the district),” he said. “In fact, I think it takes away from the vitality and what you have in that district.”

Landmarks Commission member Jodi Kittel was in support of a second review of the project’s building materials.

“We don’t allow vinyl windows in any historic property. When we’re losing a valuable historic property, why would we think that’s OK? … I don’t agree with the materiality part of it. I think it needs to be looked at again before we approve,” she said.

The Landmarks Commission staff report indicated the “replacement structure” for the Chancery Building must be equal or greater in size, and meet zoning and design guidelines.

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

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

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

Centennial Real Estate Investments will consider comments as it moves forward with design of the proposed residential development, said Doug Yost, vice president of development and acquisitions.

“With regard to the materials and the recommendation, we are trying to incorporate good-quality materials into the building,” Yost said. “And that’s something we – based on the comments – can continue to look at.”

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