By Trish Gannon
As the city of Sandpoint establishes a "downtown revitalization" plan, several business owners are moving forward with revitalization plans of their own, and are doing so in some of the city's most historic buildings.
The most visible remodeling is the old Elks Lodge building on Second Avenue. Built in 1936 by and for the Fraternal Order of the Elks, the building was purchased by Larry and Jill Brewer and Chet and Shari French. The couples remodeled it over the spring and took occupation in late April.
The Frenches moved their popular local Mexican restaurant, Jalapenos, in after a massive remodeling in their half of the 10,000 square-foot building. Highlights include a copper waterfall, murals and faux painting mixed with corrugated metal on the walls, a false skylight, aquarium, the original, hardwood fir floors and the centerpiece of the restaurant, a hammered copper bar. The copper bar and waterfall were built by Rob Chambers of Northwest Copper Creations. In addition, Misty Mountain Furniture created three palm trees for the interior and a 16-foot, wooden palm with copper fronds for the outside deck.
Brewer, who owns Action Appraisals, has turned his half of the historic building into the Second Avenue Courtyard, a collection of spaces for specialty retail shops and offices, including his own, all planned around a central courtyard.
And just down from Jalapenos on Second Avenue is Sandpoint's only example of the Spanish colonial revival architecture, just vacated in April by the East Bonner County Library. Opened in 1928 as a federal building, it has more than 12,000 square feet among three levels and features arched windows with pilasters between, a tiled roof and false balconies. The building is prime for a number of possible uses that would enhance the downtown area. The building is listed for sale at $500,000 by Steve Van Horne of Coldwell Banker Resort Realty.
Developments are also in the works across town on Pine Street at the old Sandpoint High School built in 1923. The building owned by the Baker Family Trust was recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Brent Baker of Baker Construction says he and a consortium of developers are forming plans to carve out commercial and retail space while retaining the character of the old school. The 500-seat, third-floor auditorium is well-remembered by long-time residents, and if plans come to fruition, it could again be used for community theater or similar productions.