Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The path to this week's cover story on the Ridpath

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2012 at 3:45 PM

The mess the formerly grand Ridpath Hotel is currently in — with nine different owners in contention — had been written about regularly in other media outlets. But for me, writing this week's cover story on the hotel,  the big question wasn’t the present mess as much as the past and the future.

The Ridpath used to thrive. Now it doesn’t. There had to be something in between. Something — or somebody — killed the Ridpath. I wanted to figure out who, and whether the hotel has a chance of ever being great again.

For me, the cover story process is always a dive into obsession. A week before my deadline, I made a big pot of taco soup: my meals for the next week. No time for cooking during cover story season.

With lawsuits, confidentiality agreements, and competing developer schemes, a number of sources didn’t want to talk.

Red Lion Hotel Chairman Don Barbieri, former owner of the Ridpath, wasn’t interested in talking to us. (Several representatives from Red Lion hotels repeatedly expressed concern with the questions they had heard had been asked — mainly about whether Red Lion invested enough in the hotel. Once it came out, spokesman Pam Scott said she appreciated the story.)

Nor did Gordon Sondland, a Portland investor who headed the investment group before that, return phone calls. Mickey Brown, part owner of the building — a man who purportedly has plans for the building — pulled out of an interview after we had it scheduled.

Others were more willing. I sat down for three lengthy interviews with Stephen Antonietti, and a nearly three-hour interview with former Raw Island Sushi owner Noel Macapagal. To his credit, Las Vegas hotelier Douglas Da Silva answered tough questions about the Ridpath’s trouble immediately after I called him on his cellphone (though he didn’t respond to a request for a followup).

We dropped in on the Ridpath story in the middle of its arc. In the next few months, there’s still a lot to happen, particularly in the legal case.

A few interesting pieces that didn't make the story:

  • When Councilman Steve Salvatori first moved to Spokane, he actually considered buying the Ridpath (or at least part of it). But he says the ownership tangle quickly repelled him.
  • Marshall Casey, the attorney representing the plaintiffs suing Greg Jeffreys, has been friends with one of the plaintiffs, Todd Rothrock, since they met at Harvest Christian Fellowship when Casey was 19.
  • The Ridpath has several tragedies in its history, not even mentioning two fires. In 1996, a crazed 78-year-old gunman with a scraggly beard fatally shot waitress Marie Van Slate, mother of four, at the Ridpath’s Silver Grill.

Read the story.

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