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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Almost one quarter of downtown Spokane is occupied by surface parking

There are 295 acres of surface parking in Spokane’s urban core.

There are only 1,250 acres of land in the urban core.

That means that 23.6% of all of the land in Spokane’s urban core is occupied solely by the temporary storage of motor vehicles.

If we assume a ridiculously-conservative average density of 25 units per acre, we could infill these parking lots with as many as 7,500 housing units. To put that in perspective, the full build-out of Kendall Yards will include just 1,000 units. (Just 300 housing units have been built in that neighborhood to-date.) Now, not every available block will be occupied by residences; other uses, like office, retail, public squares, civic spaces, are necessary as well. But it’s a useful thought exercise.

This is the next frontier of Spokane development. There’s more space available downtown for redevelopment than three Kendall Yards (which is an 83-acre site). With this much available space, there’s ample opportunity for creativity and innovation in the local development team.

Among other strategies, perhaps we could at the very least compile a comprehensive database of potential infill sites. This database should include information on the ownership of the various parcels, incentives available for redevelopment, and various statistics, like median income in the area, information on available utilities, and nearby amenities. In addition, include information on the planning and development process for these parcels. What type of permit review would be necessary? Would a SEPA application be required? Think of it as a more in-depth version of a site-selector. The result would be a much clearer development picture for developers and investors.

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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.

The Value of Public Space in Urban Environments

“Pocket parks” like this one in New York City can create vibrant urban gathering spaces that entice passersby and residents alike. And they pay long-term economic dividends too! (PHOTO: Sustainable Cities Collective)

Urban Land reports on the importance of public spaces in making livable communities work. Specifically, the article focuses on the value of parks, gardens, rooftop gardens, and other spaces in urban environments, as well as the return that they generate. The High Line, in New York City, for example, cost the city $115 million in public funds and $44 million from the private sector, but increased boosted property values around the 1.5-mile elevated former freight rail line by as much as $2 billion and added 12,000 jobs to the local economy. That’s a killer ROI.

In addition, the article notes that safety and accessibility are key, as is adaptability. If the park or public space cannot be used for other purposes, then in many cases it may as well not be built. Hopefully the planners of the Riverfront Park Master Plan will keep this in mind when working on designs. We’ve also heard that the South Hill Coalition has some pocket parks and other small urban spaces up their sleeves as well, so perhaps we could see some nice urban spaces in neighborhoods in our future.

What do you think? Could Spokane use more urban spaces? What does the ROI for the High Line tell you about the economic potential of open space and public space investment? Share your comments here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you!

Spokane Public Market abruptly announces imminent closure

Spokane Public Market announced on Friday that it would close by this Friday, March 7

Spokane Public Market announced on Friday that it would close by this Friday, March 7. (PHOTO: Spokane Public Market)

Last Friday, Spokane Public Market announced that it would close its doors by this coming Friday, March 7. The Market opened at 2nd and Browne in 2011 to great expectations, but tepid customer support. The year-round food and artisanal-item market was designed as a centrally-locating gathering place that would be quickly expanded and remodeled into a more attractive space. These plans didn’t pan out, and within a year, it was controversially begging for support on its Facebook account, on posts that have since been deleted.

We can’t help but lament the loss of the Spokane Public Market as a civic resource, but we also question the back story behind the move toward its closure. The market has been languishing for years, with no major changes in order to attract more customers and vendors. With nearly 5,000 Facebook likes and a strong base of vocal support, we question whether everything that could have been done to save the market was done.

Regardless, Spokane Public Market will close March 7. Perhaps the space should be reopened as a combination public market-events center-fast casual food court a la San Jose’s San Pedro Square Market?

What are your thoughts on the Spokane Public Market closure? Share your comments below, engage with us on social media, and contribute a post in response. We want to hear from you.

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?

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If It Had Happened, Part 1: 153 South Wall

PHOTO: Prium Companies

This Thursday we bring you Week 1 of a multi-week series focused on projects that would have happened had the economy not crashed. Many of the projects that we will profile were ongoing at the same time as each other, and as such, something had to give. There couldn’t be ten new major downtown high-rises at once, could there?

Indeed, there couldn’t.

Today we feature 153 South Wall, a project which was originally proposed in July of 2006 during the height of the downtown residential boom. The lot, purchased by Prium Companies of Tacoma for $750,000, would have been developed into 126 condominiums, with about seven floors of parking atop two floors of street front retail. In June of 2007, the project was shelved due to high construction costs. The lot was apparently sold to Inland Northwest Health Systems in July of 2009, although the site is still being used primarily as a parking lot.

Of course, this is exactly the type of infill project that Spokane so desperately needs, and we wish that it could have come to fruition.

To read more on 153 S. Wall, visit the Spokesman here or Prium Companies here. You can also see the Inlander here for a good article on the circumstances surrounding its shelving.