Spokane Journal of Business

What’s Happening With: The Chancery Building

Housing development in historic district is on hold

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-Mike McLean
The 113-year-old Chancery Building has been vacant since 2019 due to safety and occupational concerns. Those concerns are the primary reason renovating the structure has been ruled out.

A redevelopment project previously announced for the downtown site occupied by what’s known as the Chancery Building is on hold while the owner focuses on other developments and looks into selling the building.

As the Journal reported in late 2021, Centennial Real Estate Investments, the property owner, had announced plans to demolish the Chancery building, at 1023 W. Riverside, and construct a four-story, multifamily complex with 39 affordable apartments described as “workforce-priced” housing.

Construction was expected to begin in late 2022 and take 12 to 18 months to complete. Walker Construction Inc., of Spokane, had been named the contractor for the project, and Spokane-based NAC Architecture was designing it.

Doug Yost, vice president of development and acquisitions at Spokane-based Centennial Real Estate Investments, says the construction environment for such a project has become more challenging since it was announced.

“The economy has changed and made things tougher,” Yost says.

With inflation and supply-chain issues, construction costs have risen. Also, he says, new energy codes have increased construction costs.

While the project is on hold, Centennial also is entertaining offers from potential buyers for the property.

“We’ve made it known that we were willing to sell,” he says. “We still have people coming through who are interested.”

State real estate tax records show an affiliate of Centennial Real Estate Investments acquired the property in 2007 for $2.05 million from the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.

The diocese, which had been headquartered in the building, had owned it for 40 years, giving it the Chancery name.

The building’s current assessed value is $1.2 million, about $1 million below the assessed value when the project was announced.

It has been vacated since 2019 for “safety and operational” concerns that make repurposing the existing building infeasible, the company has said.

Yost says deciding whether to demolish a building is a difficult issue.

“We as a company do our best to preserve those,” he says. “We’re good at it. The Chronicle is a good example. We repurposed a lot of older amenities.”

The mixed-use redevelopment of the seven-story Chronicle Building, at 926 W. Riverside, includes 32 rental units and commercial space.

Although the Chancery is within the Riverside Avenue National Register Historic District, it isn’t individually listed as historic, and it can be demolished under city code if it’s replaced by a building determined by the Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission to be appropriate.

Early last year, the Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission staff recommended that the proposed new construction is compatible with the historic district and should be approved.

The staff report notes the design of the proposed new building doesn’t attempt to mimic buildings around it, but “employs basic architectural design principals to complement the surrounding district.”

The report says the original phase of the building was designed by famed Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter and constructed in 1910 as the Western Union Live Insurance Building.

The building was expanded in 1924 under a redesign by Gustav Pehrson, another prominent Spokane architect.

The 23,300-square-foot building with three above-ground stories and one below-grade floor is described in the report as “an example of Second Renaissance Revival style with a neo-classical portico.”

Walker Construction applied for a permit to demolish the Chancery Building on behalf of the developer in late 2021.

Kirstin Davis, a Public Works communications manager, says the application was placed on hold while awaiting a building permit application.

To date, no building permit application has been submitted, and the review period for the demolition permit application expired Nov. 25, following a six-month extension.

Yost says the city has been “great to work with” to obtain approval for the initial exterior design.

“That gives us some options,” he says. “We’re evaluating the best way to move forward.”

Meantime, the company has been focusing on other developments, such as River Landing at Mirabeau, in Spokane Valley, Yost says.

The initial phase of that development, near the Spokane River, east of Mirabeau Point Park, includes 66 living units in a mix of apartments and townhome-style rental units.

Centennial Real Estate Investments is the real estate division of Spokane-based Cowles Co., which owns the Journal of Business, The Spokesman-Review daily newspaper, and KHQ-TV, among other holdings.

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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