In 2019, Cowles Real Estate Co. announced it would be moving production of The Spokesman-Review, Spokane’s major daily newspaper since 1893, out of its downtown location at 1 N. Monroe Street into a new facility in the Spokane Valley.
Efficiency and environmental thoughtfulness prompted their decision to repurpose the building.
The press inside the space at Monroe and Riverside in downtown Spokane was a mammoth one, built specifically to run newsprint. As the years went by, efficiencies were created and smaller presses became available that were able to do the same job, while being more nimble, eco-friendly and versatile.
At the same time, the move would free up a prime area of downtown for new uses.
“Once the paper moved out to the valley, we were left with a large building that we were trying to figure out the best use for,” said Bryn West, Vice President of Real Estate, Asset Management for Cowles Real Estate, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review. “It’s been a joy to look at redeveloping.”
Built in the early 1980s, West described the approximately 183,000-square-foot building as very dynamic and malleable. To be able to repurpose it is a dream come true.
“New development is fantastic, but when you can go into a building that used to do something else, something exciting like the news, where you can take that history and make it your own and add to the excitement factor of whatever your new business is going to be, it lends itself very well,” West said.
As Cowles Real Estate began the planning process for the space, they received a call from Dry Fly Distilling’s broker. Dry Fly, a Spokane favorite for handcrafted, award-winning spirits since 2007, was outgrowing its space on Trent Avenue and looking for a new home.
They started to investigate whether it’d be a good fit, and it took about six months of vetting the space before serious negotiations began.
As it turned out, the timing was perfect for both parties.
“Literally as the last press pieces were taken out, the contractors were coming in to start work for Dry Fly,” said West.
Aside from some slight plumbing and electrical pieces, Dry Fly’s use wasn’t extremely invasive to the building, as the large open space that housed the press was ideal for their production process. (The only challenge was a still that was so tall, the construction crew had to build a cupola on top of the building!)
One feature that does look vastly different? The view. When the building housed The Spokesman-Review’s printing press, the windows were blacked out to maintain privacy for the newspaper. When Dry Fly moved in, the glass was put back in, offering a welcome scene.
“It’s just a beautiful shot as you’re driving up Monroe to see all their large vats in the windows,” said West. “They’re silver and shining and it’s a great visual.”
Don Poffenroth, Dry Fly Distilling president and CEO, described the building as “a unicorn.”
“It checked off every box we could ever imagine in a manufacturing facility,” he said.
Dry Fly’s new space includes 19,000 square feet, 13,000 of which is devoted to production. They also have a full bar/restaurant and tasting room.
“People just love coming in here because it’s very transparent,” said Poffenroth. “We built it so that when you sit in the retail area, you can see production and watch it happening, so it’s a pretty impressive place. The windows are open to downtown and you can see everything.”
Beyond the building itself, Dry Fly is reaping the benefits of being in the core of downtown since their move in July 2021.
“I like being close to the center of action. And it’s easy for people to find us,” Poffenroth shared.
Especially as spring foot traffic kicks in, Poffenroth sees the “moments of brilliance” for the downtown community, as more people milling around is key to the vibrancy of the area.
While some Spokane residents hold on to the judgment that downtown parking is a hassle or the area is unsafe, Poffenroth said neither is true and he encourages everyone to come downtown.
“Don’t be afraid of downtown,” he said. “We’re here; it’s a very cool place.”
The latest business to make their home inside the former Spokesman-Review press building is Contract Design Associates (CDA), a leading office furniture dealership in the Northwest and authorized Herman Miller dealer since 1984.
West said the bones of the building, the location, and the fact that there was warehouse space in a downtown environment made it very appealing to them.
“They took what used to be the old machine shop that serviced the press, and they raised the floor and lowered some of the windows and were able to make it a really cool industrial office space,” explained West.
In an interview with the Journal of Business, CDA’s principal and co-owner Gwen Guenzel said she was really attracted to the lighting and character of the building.
Even though 16,000 square feet is smaller than their former location on East Sprague Avenue (17,000 square feet), Guenzel said the space is configured more efficiently and they have more room for collaboration, meetings and focus time.
Their main office is very linear, based on the original footprint of the printing press, and the upper level features a large showroom. The building also boasts warehouse space with covered bays, which makes it easier for them to load and unload materials.
Clients also appreciate the convenient downtown location with so many amenities and attractions nearby.
CDA moved into the building in spring 2023, bringing the total number of tenants in the building to four. (MMEC Architecture & Interiors and Northwest Planning were the first.) And there’s still room for more!
Right now, Cowles Real Estate has approximately 20,000 square feet more of back-of-house storage space available where the insertion equipment for the newspaper used to be.
It’s a space that’s very much open for interpretation. Because certain areas of the building are three stories high, it lends itself to many activity-type opportunities, especially ones with height, such as indoor skydiving, trapeze use or gymnastics.
“We have a couple plans, but they’re top secret at the moment,” teased West. “We’re hoping to share some news hopefully in the next couple months.”
As a catalyst for community vitality, undertaking projects that energize and inspire, Cowles Real Estate is proud to see the revitalization of this property and be part of a group that’s committed to the success of downtown Spokane.
“As a downtown property owner, it’s very important to us to keep this block from going dark and quiet,” West shared. “We’re very happy to be adding these pieces to downtown to ensure the vitality of downtown is kept intact and thriving.”
This piece was featured in the Downtown Spokane Partnership’s 2023 Annual Report. To read the full report, click below.