Stellar adaptive reuse of the former Wonder Bread Building proposed

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Wonder Spokane, LLC has proposed a massive adaptive reuse of the former Wonder Bread Building on the North Bank of the Spokane River. The proposal would add a mostly-glass third story to the building and inject a market hall into the first floor, with office space above.

Here’s one I just couldn’t wait until Monday to share. Wonder Spokane, LLC has proposed a stellar, game-changing adaptive reuse of the former Wonder Bread Building on the North Bank of the Spokane River. The 111,000 square foot former bakery sits at 821 W Mallon Ave, directly across from the Spokane Arena. At its peak, the plant produced 500,000 pounds of bread products each week, until it closed in 2000. Now the investors of Wonder Spokane, LLC, apparently led by Denver lawyer and businessman Pete Mounsey, believe the building can be a promising site for redevelopment, as they’ve applied to attend a Pre-Development Conference* with the City.

Their version of the Wonder Bread Building would see it completely transformed and restored, adding a partly-glass third story and other unique amenities. The first floor of the historic building would occupied by a market hall concept much larger than Spokane’s only other existing market hall, Saranac Commons. The second and third floors, meanwhile, would be occupied by leasable office space, with an event space and rooftop patio on the third floor. In addition to the redevelopment of the historic building, the developer proposes an attractive-looking parking garage with two completely separate retail spaces on the west (Lincoln St) side. The sum total of these investments would be a complete revitalization of the North Bank of the river and significantly more life on this crucial corridor connecting the Spokane Arena with Kendall Yards. We look forward to hearing more details as the developer shares its plans.

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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.

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Spokane is a city of districts. Here’s how to realize their potential.

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The Garland District, in Spokane’s North Hill neighborhood, is one of its oldest urban districts, and one of its most beloved. But what could be done to highlight the many and varied urban districts which make up our city? (PHOTO: Garland District)

Spokane is a city of districts.

Garland. South Perry. Browne’s Addition. North Monroe. University District. North Bank. Hillyard. East Sprague. Lincoln Heights. Southgate. Indian Trail. Northwest. West Central. Peaceful Valley. Rockwood. Logan.

In more ways than one, Spokane is more of a city of districts than we realize. Perhaps it’s a result of the way they developed. Some of the neighborhood districts began as separate cities, like Hillyard. Perhaps it’s a result of their present situation. Some of the “urban” districts don’t seem “urban” at all. Many of them are seas of surface parking, wider-than-necessary streets, and near-to-nonexistent pedestrian facilities. Occasionally there are crime issues, or little in the way of retail, or no transit service. Almost always, these urban districts are purely commercial; they don’t contain any residential units. And there’s rarely a “there” there. The urban districts don’t seem to be anything special because they aren’t yet seen as places in their own right.

But we can change that. Here’s how.

1. Mix up the uses. As noted above, most of Spokane’s urban districts are, in essence, commercial districts. There’s little in the way of housing, aside from the single-family residential areas which often surround them. For these districts to thrive, they need more people, and that means apartments, condos, and townhomes. There’s certainly enough space. We know that Spokane will see demand for 3,000 more units over the next three years. Let’s make sure that as many of those units are in urban districts as possible.

2. Get rid of parking minimums. Parking minimums essentially require a certain amount of parking per square foot. They’re in place in most urban districts, but they should be abolished. These regulations result in more parking than is necessary, and parking takes up valuable space that otherwise could be used for more housing, retail, or other development. And perhaps most importantly, they harm urban vitality and walkability, and they make the districts driving destinations, rather than walking destinations, which relates to the next point.

3. Feet first. Develop these urban centers with a focus on walkability first. These areas should primarily serve not the entire Spokane community, but the local neighborhoods. That means that there should be a strong sidewalk network, curb bulb-outs, and street trees. Traffic calming, combined with pedestrian improvements, will improve the sense of place and make the district more desirable.

4. Build a sense of place. Beyond those strategies can be above, this can be achieved with relatively simple steps involving minimal investment. Things like trash cans, a fresh coat of paint, better crosswalks, benches, bike racks, and lower speed limits can go a long way. Beyond that, wayfinding and entry signage can better distinguish the area from its surroundings. For more money, a district could opt for streetscape enhancements, public squares (Garland has amazing potential for this!), or perhaps signature features, like neon lighting.

5. Let businesses band together. East Sprague recently created a Business Improvement District (BID) as part of the City of Spokane’s Targeted Investment Pilot program. The BID will essentially organize and tax local businessowners to provide services, like street tree maintenance, graffiti removal, wayfinding, and other maintenance improvements. It will also advertise and market the district, both to developers and to Spokane residents. Other districts, like Garland and North Monroe, should have the opportunity to create their own business improvment districts. That way, businesses will be able to take on more of their own revitalization. And even if these organizations aren’t BIDs, simple associations could unify the districts’ messages and marketing.

6. Create sub-area plans for each district. The Logan District on the Hamilton Corridor recently completed planning for the Hamilton Form-Based Code, which essentially is a subarea plan for the area around Mission and Hamilton. We need to develop subarea plans for each of the urban districts, highlighting plans for the next twenty-five years in Garland, the North Bank, West Broadway, and Hillyard. Some areas already have these plans in place. Others don’t. In all cases, however, there hasn’t been much in the way of implementation. Let’s fix that.

7. Work with developers. It’s time for Neighborhood Services to develop a clear, coherent strategy for partnering and finding or creating incentives for developers. Ideally, this would focus on multifamily apartment units with streetfront retail. Incentives need not be large. Even “fast-tracking” the planning process can be an incentive. But the fact is that we need to work with developers to revitalize our urban districts. Neighborhood Services, because it has deep experience in each neighborhood, would be well-placed to act as this bridge between residents and investors.

8. Grow small business. South Perry wouldn’t be South Perry without The Shop, or South Perry Pizza, or Perry Street Brewing. Garland wouldn’t be Garland without the Milk Bottle. North Monroe wouldn’t be North Monroe without the Boulevard Mercantile. And West Central wouldn’t be West Central without Batch Bakeshop. Many of these businesses were catalysts in their respective neighborhoods’ revitalizations. In order for the districts to thrive, we need to make things easy for small, local business. Can you imagine if we offered microloans or other incentives? Can you imagine if we eased businesses in urban districts through permitting processes, making opening a business faster and less expensive? We need to find a way to concentrate local business in these centers. This could be how.

9. Triage potential infill sites. Develop a comprehensive database of potential infill sites within urban districts. Include all of the relevant information: current ownership, zoning, associated incentives, property value, property tax rates, infrastructure maps, median incomes, (in some cases) daily traffic, and area vacancy rates. Make the database public. But hire a staffer or two at the City of Spokane to maintain the database and work with developers to negotiate and develop properties. You know, economic development work. Ideally, this work would come with a budget and the ability to create new incentives. Limit the work at first to the urban districts. Call it a pilot project. In the future, it could be expanded city-wide.

Revitalizing and recapturing every urban district in Spokane will take an extreme level of vision, foresight, and cooperation on the part of all stakeholders. It will also take some risk-taking on the part of private individuals and developers. But if it pays off, even in just a few areas, the result will be a more vibrant, more exciting Spokane for everyone.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What do you think? Is Spokane a city of districts? Do you think that any of these strategies could help recapture and reinvent our urban districts into vibrant, exciting urban places for all? Would you live in an urban district? Which one’s your favorite? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the comments below. We love to hear from you.

On the Market: Wonder Bread Factory

The former Wonder Bread Factory is a gorgeous brick building primed for redevelopment located on the North Bank of the Spokane River.

The former Wonder Bread Factory is a gorgeous brick building primed for redevelopment located on the North Bank of the Spokane River. (PHOTO: Commercial MLS)

Now we know why Bazaar presented by Terrain couldn’t take place at the former Wonder Bread/Hostess Factory on the north bank of the Spokane River at 803 N Post. It turns out that the property is for sale. Kiemle-Hagood is representing the owner, who they describe as “motivated,” and list price is $3.5 million.

The former Wonder Bread Factory is one of our favorite old brick buildings in Spokane, so needless to say, we’re excited about the potential for redevelopment at this site. Rumors had focused on David’s Pizza, which closed when North Hamilton’s Clementine Building was constructed. But imagine something like an expanded Spokane Public Market with a myriad of fast-casual restaurants (a la Saranac Commons or San Jose’s San Pedro Square Public Market) and an expansive public patio. Imagine loft apartments overtop upscale retail. Imagine a total remodel with major investment in the site.

We can’t wait to see what happens.

What do you think? Would the former Wonder Bread Factory make a good replacement site for the Spokane Public Market? Would you like to see something like a larger Saranac Commons? Loft condos? A rooftop garden? Share your thoughts below in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. We love to hear from you.

Ruby Suites rises in place of former Burgan’s Block

The redevelopment of the Burgan's Block may be less grandiose than the original proposal for the site, but it's still a really attractive project. (PHOTO: Ruby Suites)

The redevelopment of the Burgan’s Block may be less grandiose than the original proposal for the site, but it’s still a really attractive project. (PHOTO: Ruby Suites)

Construction is deep underway and should be nearing completion soon at the former Burgan’s Block site on the North Bank in the Division/Ruby corridor. Originally, the Burgan’s Furniture building and associated warehouses were set to be demolished and a five-story major hotel built in their place. That $10- to $20-million plan called for 90-100 suites and an adjacent events center complex with retail shops, restaurants, and even a rooftop garden.

Instead, developer Jerry Dicker has crafted a more conservative approach, gutting the former Burgan’s Furniture buildings down to the walls and essentially starting over. The project, called Ruby Suites, will offer a 46 extended-stay hotel units, a fitness center, clubhouse, and three retail suites on the ground floor. It should make for an exciting project, although we can’t help but lament the absurd 136 parking spaces planned for the Ruby side of the block. Hopefully in the future, the site can be built out with underground or structured parking and even more residential units.

One can dream.

What do you think? Are you excited about the redevelopment of the Burgan’s Block? Would you stay there if you needed an extended-stay residential option? Would you open a business there? And what of this continued revival of the North Bank/Division corridor as a major retail-residential node? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.

KXLY makes a major last-sentence announcement: 150 downtown units

Prium Companies’ 153 S Wall development, proposed in 2006, originally contained 96 units. KXLY is reporting that a Spokane developer has plans for a 90-unit development somewhere downtown. But where? (PHOTO: Prium Companies)

Spokane local news has a history of making off-the-cuff announcements without much substantiation or explanation. However, we were still pretty surprised to hear their latest scoop: 150 housing units downtown. In their latest story about downtown development, they dropped this bombshell:

We’ve also received word construction will begin next month on a 60-unit apartment complex set between the University District and downtown. A different 90-unit complex is expected to be built downtown starting in January 2015.

Who’ll be building these units? And where? How? When? Who’s the contractor? The architect? KXLY’s story leaves us with little new information.

We think we’ve nailed down the 60-unit complex “between the University District and downtown,” and though their story makes it seem like a project for the East End/West Main area, all indications are that it will be located on Ruby (near Chipotle). But we’ll bring you more on that tomorrow.

The big news is the 90-unit development set “to be built downtown starting in January 2015.” Who are KXLY’s sources? What are they hearing? It could be anywhere, but considering the scale of some of the most recent major downtown apartment proposals, it could be as significant as 153 S Wall, a major downtown development by Prium Companies which was scuttled during the financial crisis but which originally sought to build 96 units. Time will tell, and we’ll keep you posted.

What do you think? Are you excited for the addition of 150 units to the downtown or North Bank areas? Do you have any more information on either the 60-unit or the 90-unit projects set to start construction soon? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.