The owner of the historic Chancery building in downtown Spokane plans to demolish the structure and replace it with a residential development.
Centennial Real Estate Investments announced Wednesday plans to build 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 in the Chancery, according to Centennial Real Estate Investments.
“At the heart of all of our decisions is a long-term vision for Spokane and, in particular, downtown. This project is a continuation of our investment in repurposing sites to their highest and best use,” Betsy Cowles, president and CEO of Cowles Co., said in a statement. “We believe these new homes will help meet 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 housing for downtown Spokane’s workforce, 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 accessible housing for 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 moved to Spokane Valley from the newspaper’s Monroe Street production facility, it opened up “prime business 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 weighed options for the adjacent Italian Renaissance Revival chancery building.
The chancery building was built in 1910 and designed by the famous architect Kirtland Cutter. It underwent an expansion and redesign in 1924 by another notable architect, Gustav Pehrson.
The building was vacated in 2019 due to “security and operational issues,” according to Centennial.
In March, Centennial put the building up for sale. The company did not specify a sale price but said it would consider all offers. Although several potential buyers visited 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 vacant building there,” Yost said. “There was a lot of infrastructure work to do. The building had exceeded its useful life and was no longer feasible. We have started looking at other options for the site as part of the redevelopment of this whole block. »
Construction of 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 yet to be determined.
The project will be the latest addition to Centennial’s residential real estate portfolio, which includes M Apartments – the former downtown Macy’s – and Chronicle, 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 sits in the heart of Spokane’s historic Riverside Avenue district, has been home to 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 of 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.
Although the building is part of the Riverside Avenue Historic District, it is not individually listed on the Spokane Register of Historic Places or the National Register of Historic Places.
According to city code, buildings that are part of a historic district can be demolished if replaced with a structure approved by the Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission.
A permit was filed with the city on Tuesday to demolish the building and construct the new apartment development. The city suspended the permit until the Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission reviews and renders a decision on the project at a public meeting Jan. 19.
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 imminent, and we went with it,” she said. “We also searched and searched for people who might be interested in buying and redeveloping the building who didn’t have much success.”
Spokane preservation advocates will discuss advocacy efforts for the Chancery building at an upcoming board meeting.
“We would like the building to be reused, clearly. It looks like it would be ideal for housing. It’s a wonderful place,” Painter said. “(The 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 of the neighborhood, Yost said, adding that the company also plans to work with the Spokane Historic Preservation Office to ensure the apartment project meets building conditions and requirements.
“We’re excited about this whole block and this whole district,” Yost said. “We have things happening there that will bring potential for more housing, on top of the housing that’s already there.”