Saturday, January 7, 2012

Act Now to Save a Spokane Landmark

What is a community to do when a university is destroying its historic fabric?
The Jensen-Byrd building, 1909-2012 (?)

Washington State University announced last week that one of Spokane's landmark historic buildings, the Jensen-Byrd building, would be torn down to be replaced with student apartments. This despite the fact that a local developer has offered to buy the building for the same price and save it. A WSU spokesperson explained that they went with the wrecking ball because that buyer offered to pay WSU more quickly.

It might not be too late to stop the destruction of this important piece of Spokane history. The Spokane Preservation Advocates has issued an action alert calling on citizens to mount an email campaign to save the building. They ask that you contact WSU President Elson Floyd at and Chair of the Board of Regents Theodor Baseler at (also that you CC Ask them to preserve this Spokane Landmark. Here is the letter I just sent, which you may adapt if you like:

Dear President Floyd and Chairman Baseler:

I think you would be surprised to know the amount of disappointment and anger that has been generated here in Spokane over your decision to tear down one of our most historic buildings, the Jensen-Byrd building.

Dating from 1909, the building is a grand testament to Spokane at the peak of its early growth. The Spokane Preservation Advocates recently recognized the Jensen-Byrd building as one of the top historic structures in the Spokane region.

All over the country buildings such as the Jensen-Byrd are being renovated and breathing new life into their communities. Indeed a local developer, Ron Wells, has offered to buy and preserve the building. But you have chosen instead to tear down a piece of Spokane history, simply (according to press reports) to get your money more quickly.

It is not too late to reverse this decision, which is a disaster not only for Spokane but also for the reputation of WSU. If you tear down this building it will take a generation to repair the damage to the reputation of your institution. For your sake as well as ours, please spare the Jensen-Byrd building.


Larry Cebula


Dawn said...

The Burgans Block originally came to life in the early 1900’s with the construction of various commercial buildings on the site, which enjoyed a long tenure of warehousing and manufacturing enterprises. Most recently the Burgans Block was the home to Burgans Furniture, which was owned and operated by the McEachran family for four generations. In the summer of 2008 GVD acquired the Burgans Block and is now redeveloping the project as a joint venture with the McEachran family.

This mixed use redevelopment project includes adding two floors to the main Burgans Furniture building and converting it into an all suites hotel. The main warehouse building will be converted into an “entertainment and events building”, which will include a mix of retail and restaurants, and an event center with a rooftop garden. The adaptive reuse of the existing buildings will create an exciting new chapter in the evolution of the Burgans Block.

We expect the project to be completed in the summer of 2011. What is the status of this renovation.

Unknown said...

The above comment is dated Jan 9 2012, yet says the Burgans project should be completed summer 2011. The Burgans block as of Feb 17 2012 looks like it's ready to crumble. I'm excited about the proposed plans for the property and hope that something happens to get it rolling. Spokane has too many properties that have been ignored. Especially around the Downtown core where the city should show it's beauty. We've had a good start, but there's a long way to go.