Spokane Journal of Business

Falls Tower hits historic preservation speed bump

Former YWCA building demolition remains likely, but could be delayed

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The planned $60 million Falls Tower project has been placed on hold while the Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission decides whether the two former YWCA buildings at 829 W. Broadway merit historic preservation designation, City of Spokane Historic Preservations Officer Megan Duvall says. 

The Landmarks Commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday, Dec. 19—after the Journal’s press time—to decide what to do with the property.

Spokane developer Lawrence Stone is head of The Falls LLC, which bought the property for $3.2 million in late 2010, as previously reported in the Journal. The Falls LLC has planned to construct two high-rise buildings on the site, following demolition of the former YWCA structures. 

However, a historic preservation hold was placed on the demolition permit on Dec. 3.

“Some of those buildings were built in 1891,” Duvall says. “They were part of the old Spokane Brewery and Rainier Brewery. The YWCA bought the buildings in 1963 or ‘64, and they were starting to do some partial demolition … during the demolition, the complex caught on fire. The only building that was built new was the gym building, which is very midcentury modern, kind of brutalist piece of architecture.”

A representative of L.B. Stone Properties Group LLC, listed as the contact on the demolition permit application, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Duvall says she’s considering recommending the buildings be classified as eligible for historic status.

“I’m thinking that they’re probably not particularly architecturally significant buildings, but they may have some significance related to their time—almost 50 years—as the location of the YWCA in Spokane,” Duvall says. “My guess is that the swimming pool and locker rooms are still intact.” 

She says despite the history of the buildings, some people might find them unsightly, especially the former gym.

“It’s a tough one to fall in love with, but it is very intact,” Duvall says. “It looks a lot like it did in 1965.”

If the Landmarks Commission decides the property isn’t eligible, Duvall says demolition will proceed without additional action. If the commission finds the property eligible for historic statues, however, Duvall says the project will likely be temporarily halted while the buildings are photographed.

“We probably would just need some additional documentation, some photography of the interior and things like that,” Duvall says. “At the same time, finding them eligible doesn’t mean we can’t also approve demolition. It’s a huge project, and sometimes historic buildings are in the way of those things. If we can get some documentation and ask there to be a little mitigation, I think that can be a compromise we can achieve.” 

Duvall says all buildings within the downtown area that are more than 50 years old are automatically reviewed by the commission, but she believes The Falls LLC was unaware the property was required to go through the review process.

Should the buildings be found eligible, Duvall says the delay in their demolition likely would not be significant.

“At the end of the day, I think that we can find it eligible, but then still potentially allow for the demolition,” Duvall says.

As previously reported in the Journal, the Falls Tower would consist of two buildings, one of which would include a 120-room hotel and retail space, while the other would consist of 120 apartments and some retail space. The project would also include 18 condominiums, 25,000 square feet of office space, and underground parking, though it’s unclear in which structure those would be located. 

Virginia Thomas
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Reporter Virginia Thomas has worked at the Journal since 2017 and covers the banking and finance industries. As a reporter, she loves learning about Spokane's many growing industries. She enjoys travelling with her husband, snuggling with her cats, and cross stitching.

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