The owners of the former Great Western Bank Building, which is across Spokane Falls Boulevard from Riverfront Park between Wall and Howard streets downtown, are mulling plans to more than double the height of the structure, now called River Park Place.
River Park Properties Inc., the Spokane company that owns the building, which currently stands four stories tall and has 56,400 square feet of floor space, could add up to six stories to the structure.
As envisioned, an expansion also would as much as 90,000 square feet of floor space, says Susan Horton, president and CEO of the buildings anchor tenant, Wheatland Bank. Her husband, Stan Horton, is one of nine investors involved in River Park Properties.
That company hasnt initiated design work and likely wont move forward with expansion plans until the downtown office market firms upor a large tenant for the building comes forward, she says.
Well have to wait until the timing is right, Horton says. We want to have a plan before we go up.
Dave Blankenship, another owner of River Park Properties, says the structure was built in 1978 as the Great Western Bank Building. Back then, it was erected with future expansion in mind, Blankenship says. The foundation was built to support up to 10 stories, and theres space to put in additional elevators.
Though the building originally was built to accommodate that many more floors, he cautions that River Park Properties hasnt determined yet whether current building codes would allow for six additional floors, and that an expansion might end up being smaller in scale.
Horton says others already have expressed interest in expanding the structure. Over the past year, four Spokane developers have approached the buildings owners with ideas for adding floors to the building.
Some of those developers have pitched adding more office space, while others have proposed residential condominiums, she says.
In general, Horton says, River Park Properties is most interested in developing additional office space there once the bulk of the empty space in the citys core is absorbed.
A survey completed last fall by Spokane real estate appraisal firm Auble, Jolicoeur & Gentry puts the downtown Class A vacancy rate at 27.5 percent. That was high by usual standards here and was fueled partly by the demise of Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Co., whose former building was largely empty and still has a large amount of vacant space.
More immediately, a number of smaller changes are in the works that are designed to improve River Park Places appeal, Horton says.
River Park Properties is proposing landscaping improvements along the Spokane Falls side of the building. Horton says the company expects to take to the Spokane City Council in the next few weeks three proposed alternatives for renovating the sidewalk landscaping there.
Also, Wheatland Bank, which is moving its downtown branch to the buildings first floor from the third floor, plans to put a second entrance into the building and an automated-teller machine on the Spokane Falls Boulevard side. The structures main entrance currently is on Wall.
The banks main branch is scheduled to open in the first floor space in June, Horton says.
She says the building improvements would complement a new fountain plaza thats being built across Spokane Falls on a half-acre site in Riverfront Park. Work started on the new fountain in December, and the project is slated to be completed in June.
We think well see the whole corridor enhanced in 10 to 15 years, Horton says. All of the consultants that come to town see Spokane Falls as an opportunity.
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