Historical downtown Ellensburg closed out 2019 with the distinction of being named one of the Top 10 downtown’s in the nation, having finished as a Great American Main Street semifinalist.

As restoration continues and real estate agents work to fill vacant retail properties on Pine Street, the heartbeat of the historical downtown continues to beat strong with not only a vital commercial district, but a vibrant upstairs presence.

Upstairs in the downtown is seeing a series of commercial offices and apartments projects that hold promise for keeping the district vibrant in the new decade.

“In terms of economical development, anytime you’re reusing vacant space, it’s a viable use of space. We definitely need more housing, so residential upstairs apartments are excellent,” said city economic development manager Carolyn Honeycutt. “Then to have more office space is very beneficial.

“Having more people living downtown, making downtown a place were people are at all the time is good. Upstairs office space doesn’t work for everybody. But I have an upstairs office, so for some people it works well. Everything is progressing, so it’s doing really well.”

Upstairs in downtown is home to several with apartments above storefronts. The Cadwell Apartments located on the second floor above the Kittitas County Historical Museum feature a small, close-knit complex. Pine and Pearl streets both have a series of upstairs apartment living available. There is also the four luxury apartments above the New York Cafe, to name a few.

“I think it would be nice to see more development with apartments and offices upstairs in these old buildings to keep downtown alive to keep the businesses going,” said architect Ross Anderson with Anderson/Collier, whose apartments above the former New York Cafe on the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street are expected to be available in February.

“Developing the upstairs is important if you want to keep the downtown alive you need to have people coming here, living here, working here. Obviously we want to see downtown even more vibrant and this is a way to boost that.”

Accolade managing broker Ann Shaw said the commercial properties on Pine Street are attracting interest and they hope to have some of those storefronts filled in the near future. In the meantime downtown apartments are very popular at this time.

“We only have one apartment available that I’m aware of,” Shaw said. “I’ve been working with Emily Niebuhr and the offices in the Elmira Building. We’ve had a really good response and a lot of interest. We have nine tenants up there, which I think is remarkable. I’ve been showing every week.”

ELMIRA PROJECT

The Elmira Building was built in 1889 and was the first building completely rebuilt in Ellensburg after the great fire. The building has an excellent rental history in the downstairs tenant spaces with an upside of 8,500 square feet on the second floor. Brad and Emily Niebuhr of Full Circle Investments’ renovation of the building is nearing completion and showing great potential, Emily said.

“Upstairs is a very viable option. It has a certain appeal,” Emily said. “People are seeing the value with the commercial space in offices and we have several upstairs apartments (on Pearl and Pine streets) that are all filled.”

Some of the newest downtown apartments are expected to come available next month, Anderson said. His development above the New York Cafe took the building built by Peter Giovanini and developed the 27-room upstairs apartments into three, two-bedroom units around 1,000 square feet and a single-bedroom (700 square foot), utilizing the five different skylights, with a view of the old train station to the west.

“The upstairs apartments should be able to rent in February. The street level commercial portion will remain semi-unfinished for now until we know more about what the tenant wants,” said Anderson, who is a Seattle-based architect who renovated the O.B. Castle Building on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Main Street. “We are flexible with what goes in 5,000 square foot downstairs property.

“We want something quiet, because of the apartments upstairs. Since it used to be a restaurant, it’s already set up for something like that. It could be a sporting goods. We’ll have to wait and see.”

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