Plans for a proposed new office tower in downtown Spokane appear to be gaining momentum.
A couple of Spokane investors who envision developing such a high-rise structure at the southeast corner of Howard Street and Riverside Avenue expect to select an architectural firm by July 1 to design the project, says project spokesman Jerry Hagood, president and CEO of Kiemle & Hagood Co., of Spokane.
Demolition work likely will get under way late this year, followed by the beginning of construction in the spring of 2001, with a goal of opening the building to tenants in January 2003, Hagood says.
Were really excited about this, he says.
Downtown property owner K. Wendell Reugh and another Spokane investor who prefers to remain anonymous are pursuing the $50 million-plus project, Hagood says. He says he is acting as a consultant on the project, and Kiemle & Hagood would be the managing and leasing agent for the new building.
Were coming along with this thing. Were very much alive, Hagood says, seeking to quell reports hes heard of growing skepticism in the business community here about whether any of several office-tower proposals unveiled over about the last year would materialize. While the Howard and Riverside project isnt a certainty yet, its highly likely, Hagood says. On a scale of one to 10, Id give it a nine right now.
As envisioned, the office tower would include about 200,000 square feet of office space atop 800 to 900 parking spaces, most of which would be above ground level. On the ground floor, the building would have 25,000 to 30,000 square feet of mixed-use space, Hagood says. Its unclear at this point how many floors the building would have, but its average floor size probably would be 15,000 to 18,000 square feet, he says.
The projects investors have narrowed their search for an architect to five firms, which includes a mix of local firms and out-of-town firms that have expertise in designing above-grade parking structures, he says.
The block on which the skyscraper would be erected is bordered on the north by Riverside, on the west by Howard, on the south by Sprague Avenue, and on the east by Stevens Street. Reugh now owns all of the buildings on that block except for the six-story Fernwell Building, at 505 W. Riverside, which would remain standing.
Hagood says Reugh recently bought the last piece of property needed for the project, the small structure that houses Gabbys Irish House & Grill, at 514 W. Sprague. Reugh now controls about 45,000 square feet of land on the block, which is about one and a half times the size of the site where the 20-story Seafirst Financial Center, now called the Bank of America Financial Center, was developed, Hagood says.
There is not a better block, or better-deserving block, in the downtown core for a new high-rise office building, he asserts.
Of possible obstacles to the project, he says the block where the office tower would be built is believed to have minimal environmental-related concerns, and financing isnt expected to be an issue because the projects investors have the resources to develop the tower without a bank loan if necessary, he says.
I dont think we have any (building) code issues. I think the city should welcome us with open arms considering what its going to do for the tax base, he says.
Paine, Hamblen Coffin, Brooke & Miller LLP, a Spokane law firm, and Avista Corp., of Spokane, both have been identified as major potential tenants for a new skyscraper. Paine Hamblen has said that it needs up to 60,000 square feet of Class A office space and wants to be involved if a new high rise is built in the citys core.
Some Spokane real estate market observers have questioned whether office tenants here would be willing to pay the higher rental rates that a developer would need to charge to make an office- tower project feasible. In this case, Hagood says the investors are people with longtime and substantial real estate interests here who are willing to sacrifice market-rate returns over the short term to create an asset with strong future potential and community benefit.
Long term, he says, it will be phenomenal.
The site where the tower would be developed is the same one where Spokane developer Rob Brewster Jr., who was the first to propose a downtown tower project publicly, had envisioned developing a 25-story skyscraper. Brewster held an option to buy the Reugh property, but allowed that option to lapse last year.
More recently, Spokane architect Glen A. Cloninger said he and Reugh were part of a group of investors that was looking at developing a $50 million office tower on one of two siteseither at Howard and Riverside or along Spokane Falls Boulevard across from Spokanes opera house-convention center complex.
At least one Seattle-area developer also was rumored for a time to be looking at the prospect of developing an office tower here, although that never could be confirmed.
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