by Ann M. Colford

The west end of downtown Spokane is in the middle of a rebirth, with an influx of art galleries and the reintroduction of downtown living. Amid the changes, history has its place, as the neighborhood was designated the West Downtown Historic Transportation Corridor National Historic District in 1999. According to John Mann of the Spokane Historic Preservation Office, the early village of Spokane Falls would not have expanded into the city of Spokane -- and the western part of downtown would not have grown within it -- without the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1881. Spokane's position on the northern transcontinental route secured its economic development and drew thousands of itinerant workers during the boom years around 1900. The railroad right of way became the city's backbone, spurring the growth of an active commercial district in the west end with warehouses and the single-room occupancy hotels that supplied housing for laborers. Later, automobile dealers and services moved into the neighborhood, thanks to its easy proximity to the railroad and highways.

One of 50 contributing structures in the national historic district is the warehouse at 152 South Jefferson, just south of the railroad viaduct. Built in 1906 for the George Gallagher Company, sellers of wagons and agricultural implements, the building has been home to Window and Door Design company (formerly DuPree Building Specialties and Pella Products) since 1976. Company president Dale DuPree says the venerable warehouse is now metamorphosing into the Design Center, a hub for design professionals. Plans call for two stories of office, retail, showroom, and workshop spaces around an open atrium and corridor, along with common areas for conferences and technical support services.

"We're envisioning a place where buyers and browsers can explore the whole spectrum of design-related businesses under one roof," DuPree explains. Window and Door Design will remain as the anchor, he says, with a mix of tenants to include architects, designers, cabinet shops and specialty retailers serving the construction industry. "We're after the specialized [products and services] that aren't readily available locally, that someone would normally have to drive to Portland or Seattle to find."

Some spaces are finished and ready for immediate occupancy, but DuPree says it's still early enough for tenants to have a say in the placement of doors and walls within the former warehouse.

"It'll be fairly flexible depending on who's interested and how much space they need," he says. "Because we have the flexibility to put the walls where we want to, we may as well be accommodating."

The Gallagher Building is located within downtown's Terabyte Triangle, meaning that high-speed Internet access is part of the plan. In addition, the building offers the aesthetics common to old industrial spaces. "We have bare brick walls and exposed ductwork and rafters on the main floor," DuPree says. "We're visualizing a lot of glass with lighter-colored woods in the storefronts and common areas. We've got a DSL into the building now, and we're exploring networking options. We can offer space relatively inexpensively to design firms - we're going to be in the ten-dollars-a-foot range, so that should be very competitive."

Under current ownership, the building has been used primarily as warehouse space, with a storefront showroom and office area on the main floor fronting Jefferson Street. Changes in the window business led to the idea for changing usage.

"[Earlier] the needs of the business were inventory," DuPree says. "So this whole [space] was jammed three pallets deep with windows. Since then, the manufacturers have moved to just-in-time custom manufacturing and delivery, so our warehousing needs have dropped, and we're looking to put the space to use."

The company also owns the adjoining Hobson Building at 1213 West Railroad Avenue, and the second phase of the project calls for interior parking in that building's ground floor for Design Center tenants. Later, DuPree wants to develop the upper levels of the Hobson Building as residential loft spaces, similar to the loft living spaces just north of the railroad viaduct on the same block.

"I would not have believed there would be so much demand [for lofts] so quickly," he says. "But there's been a growing number of people who say they're interested."

DuPree says watching the transformation of the neighborhood from his office window has been exciting. "This used to be a very scary place," he recalls. "You could watch drug deals right outside the window here. But since the television station landed just down the street, and with the Davenport doing its wonderful thing, and Carnegie Square, now the big pieces are in place."

He credits the neighborhood cop shop with laying the groundwork for the area's emergence. "That initially was the big push," he says. "They did a wonderful job stopping the activity. But what's really important is all the businesses that have come along right behind that effort. Now we're seeing lots of in-fill, where it makes sense for the little guys to come in."

And those small tenants, the one- and two-person firms, are just the kinds of creative professionals that DuPree is looking for to populate the Design Center.

For information about renting space in the Gallagher Building, call Dale DuPree at 624-4281 or Jim Orcutt at Tomlinson Black Real Estate at 622-3558.

Publication date: 03/06/03

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