This week, we have a story about Brian Main, a local businessman who severed his ties with con-artist Greg Jeffreys only to start to try work with Erick Hansen, who is currently on trial for fraud. Main suggested I talk to a number of businessmen who got really, really screwed by Jeffreys involvement with the shuttered Ridpath Hotel. They would testify to his honesty.
One of them, former NFL linebacker James Darling, says that Main is basically the only guy he trusts who was involved in the Ridpath.
"The rest of the people who have to do with this shit, don’t listen to them," Darling says. "Anybody that tries to buy the Ridpath, until they’ve actually bought, is full of shit. That’s just my opinion."
That sort of cynicism makes sense. Time and time again, parties involved with the Ridpath have made promises that the hotel's resurrection was just around the corner, only to find increasing delays.
Yesterday, KHQ reported that "on Wednesday afternoon, Spokane developer Ron Wells told Invest Northwest Anchor Sean Owsley that he is moving forward with his planned renovation of the Ridpath Hotel." A group involving self-appointed Ridpath savior Stephen Antonetti, who wants to turn the property back into a hotel, had missed the deadline to pay for their winning bid to purchase a major share of the hotel from bankruptcy. That put Wells' group back into play. He just had to go to the bankruptcy hearing in Las Vegas to sort things out.
On social media, there was a lot of excitement over the prospect of the historic hotel finding a new life. They may want to tamp down their expectations. Nothing is ever that simple with the Ridpath.
Today, Antonietti tells the Inlander that Wells' doesn't stand a chance. Yes, Antonietti's group missed the deadlines to pull together $3 million to pay for the property, he says, but now he has put together $5 million, and plans to use it to thwart Wells before Wells can even get in front of
"He’s the one who truly failed," says Antonetti of Wells. The Spokesman-Review has a good overview of the latest struggle.
Complicated, right? You have no idea. I wrote a story on the whole Ridpath mess back in 2012 if you want some background, but here's
With the assistance of a developer named GREG JEFFREYS, DaSilva divided up the Ridpath into a bunch of different pieces. Even Ridpath sign was made into a separate "condominium" to be sold off separately.
Jeffreys is now serving prison time, partly for the fraud involved in the Ridpath. Through some complicated schemes, Jeffreys was able to get several pieces of the Ridpath sold off for far, far more than they were worth, meaning Jeffreys got to reap the profit in the difference.
But the bigger problem was the decision to divide it up: Anyone who wants to resurrect the Ridpath has to somehow wrangle all the different pieces from all the different owners to set them on one path.
Currently, there are two parties trying to do this: One's headed up by RON WELLS, a downtown developer with the reputation for rehabbing downtown properties. He wants to transform the hotel into downtown housing, including micro apartments.
The other involves STEPHEN ANTONIETTI, a guy who wants to turn the property into a hotel and entertainment center, eventually harnessing its power to launch his own TicketMaster-style business. He has his own past controversies, having changed his name twice and filing for bankruptcy. He got the felony on his record, for writing a bad check, expunged years ago.
To give you a sense for just how many times it looked like the Ridpath mess was on the verged of being cleaned up — I've put together this timeline. I'm not going to list every setback — every act of vandalism or no-occupy order. I'll focus on the moments of hope, where it looked like everything was moving forward.
This is by no means comprehensive, but serves as a lengthy collection of evidence that suggests that the next time you hear the Ridpath is about ready to be resurrected you should respond, "we'll see...."
“We think it’s going to take roughly four good months to get through it,” Da Silva says. “We thought that a New Year’s Eve opening would be appropriate.”
May: NAI Black agents JON JEFFREYS (Greg Jeffreys' son) and MARK McLEES say the auctioning off of pieces of the Ridpath were not successful, but that there were promising new leads.
McLees said the alliance with Florida-based Higginbotham Auctioneers worked well, but there was not enough time to sort out many of the issues that came up as the auction progressed.
“We just needed more time,” McLees said. “It’s a new process.”
June: The Spokesman-Review's Shawn Vestal writes that cleanup efforts on the Ridpath "are slowly moving forward."
Stephen Antonietti tells him that he's been working on his proposal for two years, that "we’re going to bring back a piece of history in this town,” and that “I believe my long-range plan can come forth in the next six to nine months.”
Vandals hit the Ridpath soon after.
January: Riverbank seizes Jeffreys' properties from the Ridpath. Vestal discusses the frustration over the Ridpath's mess, but ends his column with a note of wary hope:
And there is new leadership at City Hall, which seems interested in driving the project forward. Council President Ben Stuckart said he’s interested in trying to help lead the parties toward some solution.February: Stephen Antonietti tells the Inlander he's already lined up national investors ready to offer $25 million in capital to start rehabbing the Ridpath. From the story:
“I have the belief that it’s going to take a city leader to get everybody together at a table,” he said. “Until we address the Ridpath, I don’t think we’re stabilizing downtown.”
He’s already been prodding the banks to foreclose on the current owners. In the next 30 days, he says, his investors will decide whether to buy the notes on the defaulting properties directly from the bank. Even if he doesn’t, he expects the banks to foreclose on most of the properties by May [2012.] Then, he can buy up the property easily.But Dave Largent, owner of one of the properties, says he's already fatigued with these sorts of promises: “I think he truly wants to do it,” Largent said about Antonietti. “[But] I’ve been hearing 30 days, 60 days — for a year and a half.”
June: Antonietti says he's closer to building the Y building, a major portion of the Ridpath. He says he can't make any promises for how fast he can get the Ridpath up and
“I think the Ridpath should be a hotel,” he tells Shawn Vestal. “I think it’s a great plan for Spokane, for investors, for
May: I write a pretty darn optimistic Inlander blog saying that Wells has found financing. Take that, doubters!
Those still doubting the old Ridpath building will find new life may want to start believing.
A few weeks ago, developer Ron Wells says, he found financing to go ahead with the project. For now, he still remains a little secretive: He says he has two competing offers for financing the project and doesn't want to say what who they are until he's ready.
"It looks like construction will probably start in September," Wells says. Meanwhile, Wells says the details of his plan for the building, which originally were for a variety of small downtown apartments, may be changing. He isn't yet ready to talk specifics.
"I think that we will be ready to make a firm definitive announcement on what the final solution is [in] two or three weeks," Wells says. "There’s still a few moving pieces we need to figure out first."
September: The Spokesman-Review's Vestal writes a column titled "Ridpath Hotel on
"Our hope is we’ll be in construction in January, and we’ll have the first finished floor of apartments ready by the end of April,” Wells tells Vestal.
“I don’t have a doubt,” Wells says, when asked about the feasibility of his plan. "I don’t think anyone involved in the loan underwriting does either.”
Wells puts an ad on Craigslist advertising studio and one-bedroom apartments in the Ridpath. The ad claims units are already filling up, and says "Make a reservation now to get the layout and view that you want!!” It says Wells is planning to open the "Ridpath Club Apartment and Suites" in June of 2014.
February: In a less optimistic story, Vestal writes a column titled "Hurdles keep coming in Wells’ bid to resuscitate the Ridpath." It discusses Wells' struggle to find financing and extra costs from a burst water pipe.
"Ron Wells is becoming leery of setting deadlines at the Ridpath Hotel," it says. "Wells says he now hopes that construction work can begin in June, but he’s careful to point out that such a date would depend on things working out in a best-case fashion."
October: The Ridpath Club Apartment and Suites are not open. The City of Spokane looks at programs to assist Ron Wells with financing. It feels like we've been talking about this [project] for forever," Councilman Jon Snyder said. "We need to get out of the way."
Wells says work on the apartment will likely kick into gear by the end of the summer.
March: The Inlander writes an article titled, perhaps ironic in retrospect, "One Last Hurdle." Wells explains to the Inlander that he's waiting on just one investor's letter of intent and then he can finally start running full speed.
Then he could purchase the rest of the building "and my life's just wonderful again," Wells said.
"It took a very large time to find any tax credit investors willing to decide they even liked Spokane and the project," Wells said, explaining why it's taken so long to get things moving. "Fourteen of them said no before one said yes."
Asked if it had been worth it, he chuckled that it probably wasn't. "No sane lender would have wanted to take this on if they'd known it would take this long," he said.
May: Spokesman-Review columnist Doug Clark writes a column titled "Switching on neon sign may signify brighter days for Ridpath"
"More than a few people advocated tearing the Ridpath down," Clark wrote. "It won’t be too long, however, before the “R” is fixed and the Ridpath lives on, although in a different lodging format."
September: Wells loses his bid for the bankrupt pieces of the Ridpath to IVAN KRIGER, a local businessman working with Antonietti as a part of Crystal City LLC.
November: Kriger tells the Spokesman-Review that the plan is to reopen the hotel in 10 months. But the Inlander reports that the bankruptcy filing details still haven't been finalized.
"It's delayed for a couple of days," said JOE TRENCHUK, a member of Crystal City LLC, when asked to clarify the status of the Ridpath. "Just wait for a couple of days... Everything is going ahead."
Three days after Antonietti assures the Inlander everything is on track with his group, Ron Wells sends out an e-mail: "The Ridpath interrupters failed with the Vegas hotel room condo owners to negotiate their 7th extension to close their attempted purchase. So — at last —we're back in the saddle!!!"
He says the "interrupters" have delayed the project by five months.
"While we remain very optimistic that we will get this done, the actions of these interrupters have caused irreparable harm to us — as well as to the City of Spokane," he writes.
The next step?
"In order to proceed with our project, the sales prices for the remaining two hotel room condos that are left in question must become reasonable," Wells writes. "That is the nature of the lawsuit that we brought in Las Vegas federal bankruptcy court, which requires that I appear in Vegas for a court date on February 10."
Antonietti, however, says he's going to out-maneuver Wells, provide the money required, and take control of most of the Ridpath.
"We should know a decision by the end of the week," Antonietti says.