Spokane Preservation Advocates (SPA) has nominated the historic Jensen-Byrd Building to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.” This list has identified more than 200 historic treasures since 1988, spotlighting places across America that are threatened by demolition, neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development, or insensitive public policy.
Barbara Pahl, Vice President of Western Field Services for the National Trust, has acknowledged this nomination in a strongly-worded letter of April 3, 2012 addressed to Washington State University President Elson S. Floyd. In the letter, Pahl joins SPA in urging President Floyd to reconsider WSU’s decision “to sell the historic Jensen-Byrd building to a developer who plans to demolish it to construct campus housing.” In making this decision, WSU bypassed a proposal by local developer Ron Wells for the same sale price that would have preserved the building. Over a hundred Spokane residents have responded to a “call to action” by SPA to sign letters and publicly testify at a Spokane City Council meeting in favor of saving the building. According to SPA’s nomination, the 1909 Jensen-Byrd building is a six-story, architect-designed warehouse that attests to Spokane’s prominence as a center of commerce in the early twentieth century, and contributes to the unique character of Spokane’s downtown core. Pahl additionally notes that reusing the building represents an opportunity to demonstrate “green” building practices.
According to a new report by the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab, based in Seattle, called “The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental value of Building Reuse,” renovated buildings offer significant environmental savings over new construction—even energy efficient new construction—due to the reuse of existing materials and embodied energy. Pahl also notes that in testimony during a February 6, 2012 Spokane City Council meeting, Barb Chamberlain, Director of Communications and Public Affairs for WSU-Spokane, “misunderstood and/or misrepresented” portions of this report by suggesting the report implies that warehouses such as the Jensen-Byrd Building, when renovated for housing, cannot be made energy efficient enough to justify saving them.
The National Trust has taken a special interest in the Jensen-Byrd building because in October it will convene its annual preservation conference in Spokane, an event that will attract some 2,000 preservation professionals from around the country. Referring to the conference Pahl notes: “Spokane has an admirable track record of caring for its historic fabric and we look forward to exploring many of these places during our fall conference. We hope that the Jenson-Byrd building will be among them.”
Contact: Matt Cohen
Immediate Past President
Spokane Preservation Advocates
Spokane Preservation Advocates is an 800-member, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization the mission of which is to encourage historic preservation and compatible new development throughout Spokane and Spokane County.
Unless noted, the thoughts and opinions expressed in the article are solely that of the
author and not necessarily the opinion of the editors of PreservationDirectory.com.