Wanted: Regional and national businesses to fill the Wonder Building

Wonder Building Spokane
The Wonder Building is the most exciting adaptive reuse in Spokane since the SIERR Building at McKinstry Station was completed in 2010. Like that building, the Wonder is expected to host businesses working in the creative economy. (PHOTO: Wolfe Architecture Group)

On Thursday, the development team behind the Wonder Building announced that the building would be marketed for lease by NAI Black and JLL to regional- and national-scale office tenants. Naturally, given that we once called this our favorite building in Spokane, we were quite interested in any new details which could be gleaned from this release.

The Wonder Building, located at 821 W. Mallon on the North Bank, will, at build-out, include 112,000 square feet of total space across three floors, including a basement and a 12,000 square foot public market on the ground floor. In addition, a rooftop patio and conference center will feature panoramic views of Riverfront Park, the Spokane River, and Downtown Spokane. The building is expected to be ready for move-in sometime this summer. We already knew about many of these details.

Continue reading “Wanted: Regional and national businesses to fill the Wonder Building”

Behind Urban Outfitters, hidden retail awaits

There's a retail space on the Riverfront Park side of the Urban Outfitters building-to-be. Much of the space has already been leased, but there's still some availability. What should go there? (PHOTO: ALSC Architects)
There’s a retail space on the Riverfront Park side of the Urban Outfitters building-to-be. Much of the space has already been leased, but there’s still some availability. What should go there? (PHOTO: ALSC Architects)

Remember in late December and early January, when all sorts of rumors were flying about potential retailers to be built at the corner of Main and Wall in downtown Spokane? Breathless reports of a “mystery downtown retailer” were relayed from various outlets, including Spokane Rising. All along, it was pretty clear that the retailer was Urban Outfitters. The company had already announced that an outpost of Anthropologie, its sister store, would be opening in the former Mobius Science Center space, and no one expected that one would come without the other.

When those reports were finally confirmed, we also heard that the new building for Urban Outfitters would feature an additional retail slot on the Riverfront Park side. But we haven’t heard much about exactly what type of business the space would feature. Renderings from the architect feature a bistro concept, but of course, that’s not set in stone. Now we have a better idea of how the space will be divided. While a major local entity will take a majority of the space, 500 square feet will be set aside by that organization for community-oriented retail of some kind. No decisions have yet been made about the type of business or nonprofit which will fill those 500 square feet. It’s a fascinating concept that we’re excited to see come to fruition, because it could do a lot for vitality and excitement on a 1990s-improved but still-disappointing Wall Street. The possibilities are enticing.

What type of space would you like to see there? There’s been a lot of talk lately about pop-up retail and public squares and cool local shops upon which one can randomly stumble. With only 500 square feet, there isn’t enough space for a major national retailer, but perhaps a local business or nonprofit could take the space. Even a cool bistro would be nice to see, and would certainly improve that street’s liveliness. What would you like to see? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments below. We love to hear from you!

Urban infill “Hamilton Project” takes next step toward construction with SEPA application

Preliminary drawings from Spokane's permitting website indicate that the mixed-use building at 1002 N Hamilton will include streetfront retail with apartments above. (PHOTO: spokanepermits.org)
Preliminary drawings from Spokane’s permitting website indicate that the mixed-use building at 1002 N Hamilton will include streetfront retail with apartments above. (PHOTO: spokanepermits.org)

We tend not to post on Spokane Rising about projects that have not yet been announced publicly, but this one just happened to catch our eye on the City of Spokane’s Citizen Access permitting website. We noticed the “Hamilton Project,” as it is named in the permitting database, a few months ago, when developer Ferdinand CJF, LLC applied for a Pre-Development Conference (typically a first, optional step in the building process). But now the Washington State-registered LLC has applied for a SEPA Review, which indicates a level of seriousness we have not yet seen at this parcel.

The project is located at 1002 N Hamilton, which is just across the street from the parking lot for Gonzaga University’s Madonna residence hall. Mercifully, the project seems to adhere to the Hamilton Corridor Form-Based Code (PDF link) despite its location outside of the applicability area. That means that it includes a mixed-use design, a limited street setback, and parking in the rear of the facility. Project plans include 51 residential units above over 17,000 square feet of leasable streetfront retail at a cost of over $11 million. Perhaps most importantly, the project scale and architectural design seems to fit in with the surrounding area. When we first saw the renderings, we thought we were looking at Gonzaga’s Coughlin residence hall, which shares a similar brick-and-stucco construction. Either way, we can’t wait to see this project come to fruition and will continue to keep our readers updated as it passes through the plan review and building permit application process.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Are you excited to see such a substantial mixed-use project on the Hamilton Corridor? Do you see the Hamilton Corridor emerging in the future as a viable neighborhood center a la Garland or North Monroe? Do you see this as a triumph for advocates of infill? Share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, in the comments section below, or in person. We love to hear from you.

Mobile Murals site at 3rd and Division apparently set for pseudo-strip mall

The proposed development at 3rd and Division eschews any attempt at an "urban form," instead falling back on more suburban-style amenities and features, such as 46 parking spaces. (PHOTO: Spokane Planning's Citizen Access System)
The Santillanes’ proposed development at 3rd and Division eschews any attempt at an “urban form,” instead falling back on more suburban-style amenities and features, such as 46 parking spaces. (PHOTO: Spokane Planning’s Citizen Access System)

First, the good news: it appears that the Mobile Murals won’t need to be around 3rd and Division for much longer, as a local developer plans to break ground on a new project there. Now, the bad news: said project will eschew any semblance of urban form in favor of a more suburban, strip mall-esque design.

Recall that local hoteliers Rita and John Santillanes, planning to build a Best Western Peppertree, purchased the lot in 2008 and moved quickly to demolish the existing Lutheran church that was on the premises. Funding fell through late in the year when Bank of Whitman collapsed. It never returned. Last year, the Downtown Spokane Partnership, City of Spokane, and Spokane Arts partnered, and along with other community groups like Spokane Rising, built temporary murals to create a more vibrant and exciting gateway to downtown than the rebar and concrete that had plagued the site for the preceding six years.

Now, Santillanes says she’s ready to restart development at the site. It won’t be a hotel; the nearly-complete Davenport Grand scuttled those plans. Instead, the two have planned a $2 million two-story mixed office/retail building, which will become the home of operations for their four Best Western Peppertree Inns. Office space will occupy the second floor, while Brooke Baker, of the presumed contractor, Baker Construction, hopes to find a fast casual restaurant (a la Chipotle) to occupy one of the several ground-floor retail slots. Great news, right? After all, now the lot won’t be filled with ugly urban decay and the Mobile Murals can move on to another unsightly empty lot.

Wrong. See the above tentative site plan from the Pre-Development Conference hosted with the City of Spokane’s Planning & Development Services Department. Note that the building is set back from the corner at 3rd and Division, features an obscene 46 parking stalls, includes a drive-through window, and includes few if any urban design elements. Now, we have not yet seen renderings, but as it stands, the design is “standard” in every sense of the term. Moreover, it conflicts with the principles set forth in the Division Street Gateway project, which seeks to improve pedestrian access/safety and beautify Spokane’s most important intersection. We can’t help but feel that this project flies in the face of those goals.

Luckily, there’s a simple fix. All Santillanes must do to improve the building, create a better pedestrian experience, and ensure that downtown Spokane does not become an extension of East Sprague or North Division, is construct this building to the corner, with parking in the rear. It’s a simple fix, but it’s one that would work, and it’s one that would make a difference for times to come in visitors’ first impressions of Spokane. Construction is anticipated to begin in May. Can we make a difference? Shout loud and clear to your nearest City Councilperson (click on the name of yours for contact information) that you think downtown Spokane deserves better. Contact the Planning Department directly. Or, better yet, the developers, Rita and John Santillanes. We can build a better downtown. The first step? Refusal to accept continued mediocrity.

South Perry drug bust garage set for pedestrian-friendly studio-style space

This garage was the site of a drug bust several years ago. Now it's on the market.
This garage was the site of a drug bust about a year ago. Now it’s on the market.

Remember this garage? You know, the one in South Perry that was the site of a massive drug bust almost exactly a year ago? Well, it’s now on the market, and new owner NAI Black (think Dave Black) is looking for businesses that would be interested in moving into a brand new studio-style space. Zoned CC1-NC (Neighborhood Commercial within a “pedestrian-oriented, auto-accommodating” District Center), the 11,700 sf parcel is set for a pretty nice-looking 5,000 sf building with two suites that should fit in well with the new Perry Street Brewing/Woolnik’s Building. There’s a nice, wide sidewalk, street trees, garage-style doors, and a small parking lot in the rear. And while it’s unclear right now which businesses James Black is eyeing as tenants, dining, retail, and office (think architecture studio) is all on the table.

Jump after the break for the site plan and a nice-looking rendering.

Continue reading “South Perry drug bust garage set for pedestrian-friendly studio-style space”

General Growth Properties reveals plans to remodel NorthTown Mall

NorthTown Mall will be extensively remodeled in 2014 featuring a more modern and stylish exterior. (PHOTO: Spokane Journal of Business)

General Growth Properties, the owner of NorthTown Mall at Wellesley and Division in north Spokane (and Spokane Valley Mall on Indiana), is planning a massive remodel of their largest inland Northwest property. The changes should get underway in the next few weeks as crews demolish much of the north side of the building to build a new, more central and clearly defined entrance.

Significant modern and timeless architectural embellishments will be used to temper the current bare concrete facade of the building. The plan is to first demolish about 120,000 square feet of space between Macy’s and Kohl’s. Then 63,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space will be added in its place. The parking lot will be reconfigured and the interior of the building will be repainted and generally improved. Notably, GGP plans to sign tenants new to the Spokane area, but no announcements have yet been made. With construction getting underway shortly, all indications are that the renovations will be complete by early 2015.

We’re pleased to see redevelopment at Spokane’s primary suburban-style mall, but we do wish that investment would be more concentrated downtown. The Downtown Spokane Partnership has already indicated that additional retail space, especially for large-format retailers similar to Nordstrom, is incredibly necessary downtown. With General Growth Properties making a major investment at NorthTown, downtown will have a hard time keeping up unless significant investment is made. And soon.

Thoughts?

READ MORE:

Downtown Spokane Partnership Proposes to Gut Library, Insert Retail

In today’s list of weird news, it looks like the Downtown Spokane Partnership is in very early discussions about the possibility of selling off and moving downtown’s Public Library in attempt to create more retail space. The news broke in the Inlander on Saturday, and the proposal is already drawing an extremely negative response on social media.

Downtown Spokane Partnership President Mark Richard says that the downtown area has had to turn down major national retailers due to the dearth of available large-scale commercial/retail real estate. “They’ve had to turn down H&M and other larger prospects downtown because we don’t have the space to provide them,” Richard said to the Inlander. River Park Square is indeed thriving, but so is the library; according to the spokesman of the Spokane Public Library, Eva Silverstone, 22,000 people per month use the downtown branch, with usage up year-over-year. Contrary to popular reports, the library is not fading, growing ever more popular with each passing month.

Still, downtown needs more retail space, and there are few good options. Mobius, the new(er) science center located across from Nordstrom, could move into a new space as it has been struggling in its current site. But that would only open up space for maybe one large-format retailer, like H&M. Riverside, Spokane’s historical “Main Street,” could be used to open up additional retail, with connections via Post, but unless a lot of retail opens both on Post and on Riverside at once, I can’t see people opting to walk two blocks out of the way just for one store.

My vote? Go all out. Demolish (or extensively remodel) the Macy’s Building and complete the Bennett Block redevelopment project as soon as possible. Then add an 8-12 story mixed use building next door on the current Diamond Parking lot. Finally, develop Riverside as a new retail node upon completion of those projects. (How would you add significant new retail opportunities to downtown? Comment below!)

It may seem like overkill, but indications from mall leadership are to the contrary. “If I had another two blocks of street front we would [still] be full,” Bryn West, the general manager of River Park Square told the Inlander last fall.

We’ll keep covering this story as it develops.