Parking Garage Restored To Former Glory |
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Spokane has a long and storied history of tearing down aging buildings and saying good-bye to architecture that can't be replaced. It also has a long-standing problem with parking. So when a building constructed to help ease the parking issues fell into disrepair, it appeared to be a double shot for downtown. A historic building would go the way of the nearby Rookery Block, along with more than 200 parking spaces.
The City Ramp parking garage has been taking care of cars since it opened with great fanfare in 1928.
"I think it's the oldest operating garage in the country," said Lue who manages the facility.
She's worked at the garage for 12 years and watched as the previous owner allowed it to deteriorate.
By the mid-2000's George Prekeges was ready to get out of the parking business and engineers who inspected the building recommended that should be demolished.
One of the best examples of Art Deco architecture appeared to be headed into the past.
But Spokane dentist George Bourekis and Washington Trust Bank President Jack Heath had other plans.
The two purchased the building in late 2008 and began planning the renovation.
"Some guys from Washington, DC came to inspect it and they said it was the most beautiful garage they'd ever seen," said Lue referencing the committee to ad the building to the historic registry.
The cost of rehabilitating an old building is often more than the building is worth, at least on a monetary level.
But for Bourekis and Heath it wasn't about the money.
"Neither one of them wanted to tear it down. They had an emotional attachment to it," said Lue as she walked through the renovated garage Wednesday.
"We got the original drawings which really helped with the reconstruction," said Lue.
For the last two years, the garage has been undergoing a complete restoration.
"Rebuilt the floor beams with all new rebar and concrete so hopefully it will last another 80 years," said Lue.
The building, which proudly advertised in 1928 a "Six Story Modern Motoramp Provides Parking For 350 Cars," is on the National Historic Registry.
It comes from a time when valets wore dark suit jackets and white pants, when your oil was checked and your car fueled by men in crisp white uniforms.
Renovation had to follow strict guidelines set forth by the Historic Registry and it went further than most expected; nothing was left untouched.
"If there was something, it would be back in a corner. We redid all the plumbing and electric," said Lue proudly.
The building is a shining example of what can be done when getting back all the investment isn't the top priority.
"Jack is on file and made a little joke saying he never would, maybe his grandkids would," said Lue with a chuckle.
The garage maintains many of its original components including what could be the country's oldest man lift, an Otis elevator, and old tires used as bumper guards.
"Those are the bumper guards we started with and we could have done something else but the owners said, 'no'," recall Lue.
There are plenty of new features that attract customers. It's a secure garage that allows people access to their cars 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We have cameras all over the place and motion sensitive lighting."
And while there is no longer a mechanic employed at the garage, customer service remains a top priority.
"We have valet parking, we can wash your car. We have gas to fill the cars, " said Lue.. "Those are things you're not going to get at other garages."
The two year renovation is nearly complete with only a few final details to be finished next spring.
There are 230 numbered parking spaces in the garage and room to expand on the roof.