The challenge to development in historical downtown Ellensburg has always been and will probably always be, the balancing act that pays tribute to longtime architectural design, while bringing forward new elements of creativity.

The importance to the city is that the New York Cafe building is a contributing building in the city’s historic downtown. If the city loses too many historic buildings, it can lose its place on the historic register.

It took several months to work out the particulars, but renovation to the former former New York Cafe building on the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street is coming along nicely according to Seattle-based architect Ross Anderson, who purchased the building in 2017.

“We’ll have the four upstairs apartments ready to rent by the spring, if not sooner,” Anderson said. “We don’t have that much more to do on the exterior, but we won’t be able to paint until weather permits. As for the retail side, we’ll have the electrical, drywall, and the mechanical aspects fully functioning and ready, but we won’t have it complete until we actually have a tenant.

“But it’s been interesting. I’m not trying to make something different, but make something that will work now. It’s going to turn out well, but but being a perfectionist, it always seems like there is something could have done better.”

Anderson/Collier Architects. did a similar project restoring the O.B. Castle Building on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Main Street, so they had a blueprint of sorts to work from in transforming the New York Cafe and what was originally called the Edison Hotel, consisting of 20 upstairs rooms. Those will turn into four luxury apartments along with the 5,000 square foot retail building.

“The whole upstairs hadn’t been touched since it was built (in 1911), it was that old. Almost all of the upstairs has been redone in terms of floor plan, but we’ve been able to retain the old-style doors, the old-style woodworking and trim and windows,” he said. “There will be four apartments. One will be a one-bedroom and the others will be two bedrooms and two baths.

“There is an elevator that goes from the apartments down to the basement garage. It also goes up to a roof deck. I feel these will be some of the best apartments in town when they’re complete.”

Designers are working with a 6,000 square footprint upstairs, Anderson said. The one-bedroom will be 740 square feet the two-bedroom units will range anywhere from just under 1,000 square feet to 1,580.

“The upstairs windows are identical to what they were in 1911, because those were still intact,” Anderson said. “The main thing we did was move around a bunch of walls so create the four apartments. We tried to match everything as best we could. It’s all new, but we brought back elements of detail.”

The 5,000 square foot retail space can be developed for a variety of business endeavors, Anderson said. Since the project involves living space upstairs, Anderson said they will be selective in terms of the after-hours noise level like say a sports bar.

“Everything downstairs will be fully functioning, but we’re probably not going to do the wood floors until we have someone interested. Then I’ll finish to suit,” he said.

In May of 2017, the city of Ellensburg Landmarks and Design Commission’s recommendation was for the art moderne first-floor to be restored and the original second-floor wood framed windows to be repaired, if needed, and kept.

The art moderne elements were added in a 1938 remodel, making those elements historically significant (more than 50 years old) and based on the Secretary of the Interior’s guidelines for preserving, rehabilitating, restoring and reconstructing historic buildings, those elements should be restored and maintained, if possible, rather than removed.

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