Advocates urge real estate company to preserve historic Spokane building

Preservation advocates are urging a Spokane real estate company to preserve a historic downtown building designed by one of the city’s most famous architects.

The three-story Chancery building in downtown Spokane has been standing for more than 100 years. Renowned architect Kirtland Cutter designed it. He’s the man behind some of Spokane’s other most recognized landmarks, including the Monroe Street Bridge, the Spokane Club and the Historic Davenport Hotel.

Check out these neat old photos for the Chancery building from the Washington State Archives. #Spokane #Spokanehistory

— Ariana Lake (@arianaKXLY) November 18, 2019

For more than 50 years, the building housed the Catholic Diocese of Spokane. In 2006, Centennial Real Estate Investments, a subsidiary of Cowles Company, bought the building for more than $2 million dollars. The diocese had to sell the building as part of its bankruptcy case.

Now there are new concerns about the future of the historic building. Spokane Preservation Advocates Advocacy Chair Karen Dorn Steele said in a past meeting with Betsy Cowles, the building’s future seemed in limbo.

“They hadn’t made a final decision yet, but they didn’t think the old Chancery building would pencil out, in developer talk, and that they might put up something new instead,” Dorn Steele said.

Centennial Properties Vice President of Development and Acquisitions Doug Yost said in a statement that the Cowles Real Estate Company owns numerous historic buildings in Spokane and “prides itself on carefully evaluating and preserving buildings when at all possible.” Yost went on to say that at this time, “no final plans have been formulated regarding the future of that building.”

City of Spokane Historic Preservation Officer Megan Duvall said if the building’s owners ever wanted to take it down, the city has “limited demolition review over it.”

That’s because the building is not listed on the Spokane Register of Historic Places, which would provide more protections. The Chancery part of a National Historic District, but that provides few protections.

Duvall said if the building’s owners wanted to demolish the Chancery building, they would have to prove that their replacement is “compatible with the historic character of the area.” It must have a footprint of the same size or larger than the current building.

Even though there are no firm plans to demolish the structure, the possibility is enough to inspire people to fight for the building’s next 109 years.

“To demolish a building that significant removes a part of our history,” Dorn Steele said.

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