What’s Going Up? Best Western Premier and Zpizza

Owner: Peppertree Hospitality Group of Spokane, Washington

General Contractor: Baker Construction & Development Inc. of Spokane

Architect: Wolfe Architectural Group, Spokane

Subcontractors: Baxter Builders and Severson Plumbing & Mechanical of Bend, Stephens Heating & Cooling of Prineville and Crawford Electric of Stayton

Details: A 120-room hotel and pizza restaurant with taproom are expected to open in early summer 2018, said Brooke Baker, director of business development for Baker Construction, the general contractor based in Spokane.

The hotel is a Best Western Premier with an adjoining restaurant: Zpizza, the Irvine, California, chain that offers nitrate-free pepperoni, gluten-free crust and vegan cheese, along with an extensive taproom, said Rita Santillanes, co-owner of Peppertree Hospitality Group in Spokane.

The project marks a couple of firsts for Peppertree and Zpizza. This is the first time Peppertree, which has built several Best Westerns, is building the premier-class hotel, Santillanes said.

Best Western requires all premier hotels to have an adjoining restaurant, so it’s also the first time Peppertree has acquired a restaurant franchise, she said. The company considered working with an independent restaurant operator and researched several franchises before landing on Zpizza, she said.

“We thought, because it’s close to the university, it was a good choice,” she said.

The Best Western Premier Peppertree Bend Inn will be Zpizza’s first Oregon location, Santillanes said. The building plan is for a 3,700 square-foot restaurant and patio with combined seating for about 100 people overlooking Mt. Washington Drive.

Zpizza is known for self-serve taprooms, but Santillanes said it’s unclear at this point whether self-service will be allowed under Oregon liquor laws. Locally brewed beers will be on tap, she said.

Other amenities in the hotel plan are a flexible-space meeting room, indoor pool and spa, bicycle storage and drying room for ski gear, Santillanes said.

Construction is proceeding on schedule, site superintendent Mike Lourenco said. The main goal is to have the five-story building under roof before snow begins falling, he said. With framing underway, there are on average 60 people working on the site, he said.

Work on the 2.77-acre site began in March with Latham Excavation removing numerous boulders and chunks of concrete, Lourenco said. “This particular site was kind of a dump-fill place before we got here,” he said.

Excavators dug as deep as 27 feet, he said. The unusable material was run through rock-crushing equipment and spread over the site before construction could begin, he said.

—Kathleen McLaughlin, The Bulletin



Shawn Vestal: Division Street beautification a testament to possibility

For the longest time, “Division Street exit” was code for “Spokane’s ugly front door.”

Well, it ain’t ugly anymore. And the reason it’s not is a testament to the richness of Spokane’s current cultural, political and economic soil – and the fruits borne of collaboration and coincidence among government officials, businesspeople and even the city’s artists.

The Division Street exit and entrance was spiffed up with a city project last year that took some $600,000 and invested it in artwork, landscaping, retaining walls and other amenities. The spiffing-up was intensified with the opening of a little strip mall three months ago – Peppertree Plaza, with a new bagel shop and barber – where before was a big hole in the ground for eight years.

To look at it now is to wonder: Why did we live with the old front door for so long? There are many reasons, and a big one – so far as the plaza goes – was a series of economic difficulties for the property owners, starting with and stemming from the Great Recession. But at the risk of seeming grandiose, I think there is another reason and it has to do with the spirit of the city: We’re becoming a place that doesn’t settle for an ugly front door.

This renewed sense of civic possibility and pride has been palpable in recent years. Neighborhoods are blooming with possibility. You can’t keep up with the good restaurants. Streets and infrastructure work continues apace, and we’re getting ready to make over the city’s central park. Downtown is a potent swirl of activity fueled in significant measure by Walt Worthy’s new Grand Hotel.

Anymore, when I see a “Spokane Doesn’t Suck” bumper sticker I find it irritating, because we’re past merely not sucking.

Which brings us back to the Division Street gateway.

Leaders in this city have known for many years that improving the front door was a possibility, and a relatively cheap one. Bafflingly, we’ve found reasons for years not to do so.

Mayor David Condon mentioned the city’s blighted gateways when he announced his run for mayor.

“I’m not bashful about being proud of our city,” he said this week, “but let’s face it: We were not putting our best face forward at these entrances. … It was just an obvious thing to me.”

Improving those areas had long been a priority for downtown businesses, and Condon’s administration, led by former head of Business and Development Services Jan Quintrall, began pressing to make it happen.

“You come down the hill on I-90 and see this lovely city sitting in a green bowl,” she told the Journal of Business in 2015. “And then you exit off and it’s like, yuck. It’s like having a beautiful house and your front door is made of barbed wire and duct tape.”

I recall driving to Spokane from Moscow, Idaho, in the late 1980s. Getting off the freeway and coming onto Division Street was a depressing affair then – like stepping into a world of cracked, weedy asphalt – and it has remained so for a long time. If anything, it’s been worse in recent years, thanks to the pit at Third Avenue and Division, which sat there pocked by rebar and concrete since 2008, when construction on a new hotel was halted by the economic meltdown.

In 2014, community, business and arts organizers concocted a way to hide the lot behind a fence covered with artwork – an ingenious idea, but not a permanent solution. However, what grew out of that project was a crucial collaboration between the property owners, Rita and John Santillanes, and Baker Construction and Development Co.

The Santillaneses agreed to the art project, and Baker Construction volunteered to build the braces to put up the artwork. The city coordinated obtaining and displaying the art. The Santillaneses, who are hoteliers without retail experience, were struggling to find a viable business use for the lot at the time. Brooke Baker, the director of business development for the construction company, noticed how much street traffic passed that corner and had a suggestion.

“I said, ‘Rita, I don’t know hotels, but I do know retail,’ ” she said.

They had coffee and began discussing the concept that would become Peppertree Plaza. Brooke and Baker Construction President and CEO Barry Baker helped along the way, their company built the plaza, and now the Santillaneses and Bakers are partnering on hotel projects in Nampa, Idaho, and Bend, Oregon.

“It all grew from the art project,” Rita Santillanes said.

Meanwhile, the city was putting in the improvements at five spots getting on and off Division: signs, a statue of a Native American fishing, a retaining wall and other fencing. Baker said her firm consulted with city planners on the design of Peppertree Plaza, to match materials with the infrastructure work. The city’s project was funded in part by changes the Condon administration made in the way the city leases its property around the freeway, and it involved collaboration with both state and federal governments.

One example: Condon said he was forced to negotiate permission to use lilacs in the gateways, because they were not on the federal list of native plants for use in and around freeway projects.

The city work was finished a year ago this month; the plaza businesses opened three months ago. The city will be moving on to further gateways improvements in the coming years.

“This year, it’s Lincoln, and next year … it will be Division from Third Avenue to the river,” Condon said.

If Spokane’s new front door – and the collaborations that made it a reality – are any indication, those will be changes to look forward to.