|By Parker Howell, The Spokesman-Review,
Spokane, Wash.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 4, 2008 - A Spokane group that wants to buy the historic Ridpath Hotel would start by revamping the downtown landmark's top two floors, giving residents a swanky spot to dine and drink with a remarkable view of the city.
Members of two restaurant groups and an undisclosed investor have quietly secured about $2.2 million to transform the floors into a high-end nightclub and restaurant, said Chad Hutson, business development director for Cuisine Northwest LLC, which provides food and beverage service for the hotel.
"The larger goal is to reacquire the entire tower and to bring back the hotel to the grandeur it once had," Hutson said. "All of us have kind of a passion for the space up there just because of the potential of it."
An $8.5 million listing for the 200-room hotel, 515 W. Sprague Ave., expired Monday. Owner and Las Vegas hotelier Douglas Da Silva said he is evaluating options -- including selling, closing or repurposing the building -- to stem financial losses at the Ridpath.
"We're looking to see how we can correct that, but we're losing money and we're tired of it," he said, adding he didn't receive any viable offers.
There's demand for hotel rooms downtown after a "landmark year," said Harry Sladich, president of the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"I need that to be a hotel because I need the space," Sladich said.
The effort to acquire the floors still faces logistical and financial hurdles.
The group consists of businesspeople from Cuisine Northwest, which operates downtown sushi lounge Bluefish, and Spokane Sushi LLC, which runs Raw sushi across the street from the Ridpath. They hope to convert the former rooftop Ankeny's restaurant into Soleil, Hutson said.
They would use $1.2 million from their partner, a local developer, and a $1 million bank loan to buy the floors from another unnamed party who is negotiating with Da Silva, Hutson said. The group already has architectural plans for the restaurant, but some funds still are needed, he said.
"We are very close to having all of the dollars secured for that top project," Hutson said. "Once that is in place, we figure it could be as early as six months, with the right construction partner, to have the space ready to go."
Cuisine Northwest operates the street-level Artisan Culinary Lounge, formerly the Silver Grill, which becomes nightclub Studio 23 on weekend nights. Hotel owners initially had hired Cuisine Northwest to revamp Ankeny's, but that never materialized, Hutson said.
Demolition of Ankeny's started months ago but wasn't completed. Dust-covered dining booths sit upturned near large windows showing off the floor's 360-degree view of downtown. Gold, reflective ceiling panels and shiny black walls hint at its former 1980s decor.
When Da Silva bought the Ridpath from Red Lion Hotels in September 2006 for a reported $6.75 million, the property included the adjacent Halliday Building, home to the Hart & Dilatush Pharmacy, and the next-door YMCA building, which contained rooms.
He has since sold the Halliday Building and turned the YMCA building into five commercial condos. The hotel was an "undervalued asset" at the time, he said.
"The only reason we bought the hotel was to sell the hotel," Da Silva said. "That was always our intention."
In the former YMCA building, investors have purchased two of the new units, Da Silva said. The remaining spaces are not on the market, he said.
Spokane County property records show Sundevil Investments LLC and Sonrise Land LLC bought units 3 and 5 on Dec. 10 for $175,000 each. Plans for condos in the building include retail businesses and probably more hotel rooms, said Grant Person, vice president of commercial real estate brokerage NAI Black and Sonrise Land owner.
Plans by then-Tomlinson Black to convert the Executive Court property south of the Ridpath, also once part of the hotel, into condos stalled last year.
"Unfortunately, the business in downtown Spokane as it relates to the Ridpath Hotel is not strong enough to support a 265-room hotel," Da Silva said.
Downtown room rates between January and October last year averaged $101.04, compared with $89.63 for the same time in 2006, Sladich said.
"If Mr. Da Silva is not making money, it is not because of the environment -- it's just not," Sladich said. "It would be flying in the face of what's going on there."
"I think there certainly is a market there, and an opportunity there if Chad Hutson and his group can pull that off, and I really hope they can," Person said.
The Downtown Spokane Partnership has helped spread the word that the investors are looking for more support.
"It's another cornerstone to our downtown, like that of the Fox and the Davenport," organization President Marty Dickinson said of the Ridpath.
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