Four items on our wishlist for the recently-purchased former Wonder Bread Building

The former Wonder Bread Factory is a gorgeous brick building primed for redevelopment located on the North Bank of the Spokane River. It recently changed ownership, and the new owners are interested in a new use for the building. (PHOTO: Multiple Listing Service)

Fresh off the news of a new residential mixed-use complex on the East End of downtown Spokane, and the release of the first renderings of a redeveloped Macy’s Building, the Spokesman-Review reports that the Wonder Bread Building on the North Bank of the Spokane River has changed hands. The handsome, historic brick warehouse has obvious character, which is why we named it our favorite block in Spokane, and the block with the most obvious potential for adaptive reuse.

The building, first constructed in 1909 and extensively remodeled in 1947, sold to an investment group named Wonder Spokane, LLC. Investors include Pete Mounsey, a Spokane native and resident of Denver, Colorado who most recently remodeled the Lincoln View Apartments on the lower South Hill with local architecture firm Nystrom + Olson. The group has no specific plans, but notes that mixed-use is a strong possibility. Zoning code would allow up to twelve stories on the site.

In the spirit of our recent Facebook post, jump after the break for our redevelopment wishlist.

The Plant 51 project in San Jose, California leveraged a historic cannery building and outstanding transit access to create a transit-oriented community with significant density and the possibility of car-free living in a historic brick building. (PHOTO: Devcon)

WISH #1: Residential space. This is pretty significant, and it’s probably been the biggest barrier to redevelopment in the past. A prior proposal, the “Continental Bakery Building,” which was proposed for the Wonder Bread Building in 2003, featured only office space, likely because the financials on residential didn’t pencil out. Of course, the market for residential space downtown is markedly different now, and we don’t know the specifics of what the developers are eyeing for the site. But it would be great to see residential of some kind. As Mounsey noted in the Spokesman article, the site is zoned for up to twelve stories, so additional floors could be added with residential space. This project in San Jose took that approach.

This building in North Carolina features an environmentally-friendly redesign and beautiful windows into a bright, open, and airy indoor space. Unfortunately, it squanders significant opportunity by remaining single-use.

WISH #2: Beautiful windows and an environmentally-friendly redesign. I mean, this is kind of a given. If you’re going to remodel a building like the Wonder Bread Building, you should do it the right way. This building in North Carolina certainly mastered at least the windows. Locally, McKinstry has done great work in recent years remodeling and rehabilitating historic buildings. Their “SEIRR Building at McKinstry Station” is probably the nicest remodeled buidling in Spokane. Perhaps their creativity and innovative spirit could be leveraged for a partnership?

The “Green Building” (seriously) in Louisville, Kentucky combines old and new in a stunning, architecturally-significant way. Locally, we see the same idea at the Community Building on the East End.

WISH #3: A new architectural element that blends old and new. I mean, this isn’t really necessary in the strictest sense. But it would be a statement piece not unlike that of the Community Building on the East End of Downtown Spokane, where the solar panels literally blend into the building’s roof. And it doesn’t have to be as obvious as this building in Louisville. But it would be kind of cool.

Denver’s “The Source” is a market hall that brings together over a dozen artisanal food, design, and art vendors in a former foundry building dating to the 1880s. It’s a super cool space, and certainly a gathering space for the community.

WISH #4: Super-cool retail. This doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the primary driving force behind the project, although it certainly could be. But the Wonder Bread Building should have some form of retail. This could be anything from a simple coffeeshop with live music space to a full-fledged market hall with food, art, and craft vendors. (Think Saranac Commons, but four times the size.) This gives the community another gathering space, and if executed well, it could become a Spokane icon like Denver’s The Source has become for their RiNo (River North) neighborhood. Of course, some observers have noted that the site would be perfect for a Whole Foods (there’s plenty of space for a parking garage), but we’d prefer to keep it local.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What do you think? Are you excited to see the Wonder Bread Building finally change hands to an ownership group which apparently plans to invest in redeveloping the building? What would you like to see the building become? And do you think there’s a market for additional floors of housing atop the existing structure? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, in the comments below, or in person. We love to hear from you!


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