Adaptive Reuse of the Geddis Building In Ellensburg

We are all aware of the deepening housing crisis facing this country and our state, from large urban centers to small-town communities. While the solution needs a multi-pronged approach, one option to consider more frequently is the adaptive reuse and renovation of our existing building inventory.

In many locations throughout the state, historic structures with commercial spaces on the street level have vacant rooms on the upper floors. Adaptive reuse and renovation of these empty spaces allow building owners and municipalities to increase local housing units while also raising pedestrian activity in urban, suburban, and local Main Street Communities.

An example of this is the historic Geddis Building (also known as the Hubbell Building) in Ellensburg. Sylvanus Ray Geddis, a wealthy rancher, built the Geddis Building in 1886. The Great Fire of 1889 destroyed it, but Geddis quickly rebuilt it with fire-resistant materials such as iron columns and aluminum sheathing. This 30,000-square-foot, two-story building is located within the Downtown Ellensburg Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Currently, the street level of the structure contains seven commercial retail spaces, and the upper level sits mostly unused.

Working closely with the City of Ellensburg and the Landmarks and Design Committee, the current owner has undertaken multiple projects over the last two years to maintain the property, with the intent to renovate the building and reactivate the unoccupied second floor. The first phase of the renovation consisted of repointing the exterior unreinforced masonry walls and replacing the exterior belly band façade that was deteriorated and damaged.

After the exterior work was complete, work moved to the interior of the building. With architecture firm Andrews & Andrews, the ownership group worked to convert the unused second floor into multiple studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments, ranging in size from 430 to 1,000 square feet, while maintaining much of the existing character of the building. The design team took advantage of the sizeable floor-to-ceiling height by adding a small storage loft to each apartment. The layout of the units also takes advantage of an interior light well.

This project is due to be completed in the second half of 2022. The owner of the property is MJSS LLC, and other project partners include Pioneer Masonry Restoration Company (masonry contractor), Felix Plastering (interior and exterior finishes), Belsaas & Smith Construction (contractor), and Swenson Say Fagét (structural engineering).

With the pandemic shift to online shopping and working from home, substantial potential inventory for this housing option lies in downtown areas that have lost brick-and-mortar businesses and office tenants. Savvy and preservation-minded developers are considering these buildings as a viable option to increase apartment inventory while revitalizing downtown areas. These options are not without challenges, however. Meeting current code requirements for structural and energy upgrades can be costly and, in some communities, may not pencil out for property owners. It is important that state and local jurisdictions work with owners to create incentives to help mitigate these additional costs.

This Place Magazine – Summer 22 – page 14

DJC Update 11.15.22 – Ellensburg building wins preservation award


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