Spokane Journal of Business

New owners to restore old Plantation restaurant in the Valley

Developers aim to reduce Plantation to original size, hope to attract operator

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Spokane real estate investor-developers Mark Baier and Dave Birge have bought the former Plantation restaurant building at 8122 E. Sprague and say they plan to restore the Spokane Valley landmark, although to a smaller, more manageable size.

They're also looking for a restaurateur to lease the property and bring back the Plantation name, says Baier.

The developers bought the property from the bank that held the mortgage on it, he says.

Baier declines to disclose the terms of the purchase, or how much they plan to invest in restoring the restaurant, except to say, "We plan to throw at least $150,000 in it right away. If we're lucky, we might get a tenant who wants to put in some money, too."

The taxable value of the land and structure is assessed at $355,000.

The building, located at the southwest corner of Sprague Avenue and Vista Road at the west end of a cluster of car dealerships collectively known as Auto Row, has been vacant for nearly two years. Since its heyday as the Plantation more than 20 years ago, it has gone through several incarnations of bars and restaurants, most recently the Blue Island Restaurant.

The restaurant building was constructed in 1939 and was expanded incrementally in the 1970s and 1980s,w.

"The building is just too big," he says. "It takes up almost the entire property and there's not enough parking for a business of that size."

The building will be reduced to 3,500 to 4,000 square feet of floor space from its current size of 10,200 square feet, he says.

"We're going to tear down more than 60 percent of the building and bring it back to its original structure," Baier says.

The restored structure will retain the original wooden rafters and pillars and storybook stone exterior, he says. The developers will act as their own contractors, and Womer & Associates Inc., of Spokane, is designing the project, he says.

Birge, the partner in the project, says the smaller structure will leave room for more parking and for drainage swales on the south side of the building.

Planned improvements include a new kitchen, new restrooms, and most likely a drive-through window, Birge says.

Birge says the developers hope to obtain a demolition permit to begin the project this month and have the restaurant ready to occupy by fall, he says.

One prospect has shown interest in leasing the building for a home-style breakfast and lunch restaurant, he says.

Adds Baier, "We've already got people interested, and we hope to keep the Plantation name."

Birge says a new parking lot entrance on Vista will allow easy access from westbound Sprague on the north side of the building and from eastbound Appleway Avenue on the south side of the block.

"We feel good about the location. To us it's a big deal being on the corner," Birge says. "Sprague needs businesses like this to complement the car sales."

The Plantation isn't the first real estate investment for Baier and Birge in that area of Spokane Valley. They previously had acquired adjacent properties west of the Plantation building that currently are occupied by the nonprofit Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council and The Cash Connection Jewelry & Loan Inc. pawn shop.

Baier and Birge also are part owners of the Riverwalk Plaza commercial complex, at 1003 E. Trent.

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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