Spokane Journal of Business

Investors plan loft condos downtown

Project on Railroad Avenue expected to get under way within a couple of months

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A small group of Spokane investors is buying an older, four-story building downtown and plans to redevelop it into about a dozen loft condominiums.


Steve Thosath, one of the investors, says the group expects to close shortly on the purchase of the 92-year-old building, located at 1220 W. Railroad, next to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. viaduct between Adams and Jefferson streets.


The brick structure adjoins the back of the old Lambert Candy Co. building, at 115 S. Adams, which Jim Kolva and his wife, Pat Sullivan, bought five years ago and have been converting into apartments and office space.


We should be under construction in a couple of months and finished in eight or nine months, Thosath says. He says the total cost of the project, including the undisclosed amount paid for the building, is expected to be about $1.7 million.


The planned development is being referred to tentatively as the Blue Chip Lofts, since the building where the condos will be developed most recently had housed a company called Blue Chip Auto Body. It also previously had housed various car dealerships and, before that, a plant that made window and door sashes, Thosath says.


Thosath says the investor group, which includes his wife, Cathy, and Susie Luby, a residential real estate agent with the Spokane office of John L. Scott Real Estate Co., will redevelop the building through a company called Bull Moose LLC.


The project designers include Doug Menzies and Matt Melcher, both professors at Washington State University at Spokanes Interdisciplinary Design Institute, and Melchers wife, Juliet Sinisterra, who together with Melcher owns a design firm here called iDR Studio. Thosath Co. will be the general contractor, and John L. Scott will market the condos. Thosath says the investors already have secured signed letters of intent from seven prospective buyers, but no money has been exchanged yet.


He praises the Downtown Spokane Partnership, which he says has bent over backwards to help us any way they can on this project.


Michael Edwards, the partnerships president, says, We think theres a strong market for it.


He says the organization has been assisting the project through its Downtown Spokane Ventures Association, a nonprofit corporation set up a few years ago to help implement a downtown plan approved by the city.


Downtown housing is a high priority of the downtown plan, Edwards says, and we think this is an important first project. He notes that the partnership sponsored some focus groups on downtown housing late last year and found considerable enthusiasm for it, including interest in loft condos.


Thosath says the people who have shown strong interest thus far in buying the condos and living downtown are kind of a mix between young professionals and middle-class empty nesters.


He says the buildings first floor will be used for secured parking, and the condos all will be located on the three upper floors.


Were looking at various configurations from two stories to single story, as small as 650 square feet and as large as 2,200 square feet, Thosath says. As currently envisioned, four of the condos will be two-story units, he says. He notes, though, that a modular design will provide some flexibility and allow units to be expanded in size, depending on a prospective buyers desires.


Each will have its own air conditioning and gas furnace, also a completed bathroom and a completed kitchen, and the rest will be open so the tenant can do what they want in terms of space layout and design, Thosath says.


The building will be fitted with new windows, a new fire-protection sprinkler system, a new elevator, and skylights to help give it a more open, cheery feel, he says. It also has a courtyard area that residents will be able to use, he says. Some minor brick-restoration work may be done on the outside of the building, but the intent is to leave the exterior look largely unchanged, Thosath says.


The condo units are expected to be priced between about $115,000 and $175,000, and a condo owners association will own the building and the parking area, he says.

Kim Crompton
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