Like a phoenix, the building at South H and East Wishkah streets next to the downtown Aberdeen bus depot, has emerged from the ashes and damage of a fire in 2011 in better shape, sporting a new sign, a renewed mural, and its first tenant, post remodel.
Though he knows it can be tough to rent commercial property in the economic downturn that persists in Aberdeen, owner Radouane Sbai is enthusiastic about the restoration of the building. “I have goosebumps,” he said. The work cost about $750,000, he added. The building has commercial space on the ground floor and apartments on the second floor. The main commercial space was empty at the time of the fire, but suffered water damage. The fire damage was on the second floor.
The smallest commercial space has been rented, Sbai said Wednesday. The Wells PO Box business will be located on South H Street, offering money gram, mailbox, copy, and notary public services, Sbai said.
He is currently offering commercial rents at $1 per square foot. The rent can include a 4 foot by 8 foot sign just below the new green and white sign advertising Ocean Shores and above the transportation mural on the east side of the building. There are three medium-sized and one large, 4,000 square foot commercial space still available.
The commercial units all have storage spaces above and in some cases behind the units themselves.
Sbai and his wife, Lisa, purchased the building in 2003. They are planning an open house for the afternoon of Sunday, July 14, to show the commercial as well as the apartment rental units.
He is particularly excited about the new look of the apartments upstairs, where eight apartments have a look and space that can appeal in an inner city setting.
Cushioned against the noise of the traffic and buses by thick walls and new, energy efficient double-paned windows, each apartment has a different feel and look.
He bounded from feature to feature, eager to show off skylights salvaged in the long hallway and space for a new coin laundry at the end near the alley and fire escape.
“These windows adjust automatically and open at the top, yet it is still quiet.” Sbai opened a window on East Wishkah so the louder beat of the traffic can be heard on a morning last week. He closed it, and the noise was substantially reduced.
The studios, one bedrooms, and one two-bedroom all feature thick chocolate carpet, new kitchens, bathrooms, lots of closet space and individualistic nooks and crannies.
“See, every one is different,” he said.
Old Murphy bed recesses have been refashioned into shelving for entertainment centers. An artistic nook expands space in another. Black appliances, dark wood cabinets and new counters in the kitchen might appeal to space-starved urban foodies. Guests are buzzed in via a telephone intercom system.
The lone two bedroom is now being offered for $750, five one bedrooms for are $650 each, and $550 for two studios, Sbai said.
The building was constructed in 1922, and Sbai plans to ask that it be considered for historic status. In 1924, it was occupied by Carlson Market, and later also housed the Lafayette Apartments, according to Aberdeen Museum of History Director Dann Sears. Riley E. Arthaud & Son Real Estate was located in the building in 1935, along with Aberdeen Mortgage, and Grays Harbor Savings and Loan, he added Wednesday. Sears remembers an outdoor sporting goods store there in 2002 or 2003.
Sbai hopes to rent or purchase the vacant lot next door on East Market and South H Streets where a building was recently torn down by the city. There is a lien against that property for the cost of demolition, Aberdeen Community Development Director Lisa Scott confirmed Wednesday.
Sbai was joined by long time friend Bill Bonney of Windermere Real Estate, who is consulting on the commercial rental space. Bonney said he has yet to do a formal market analysis.
The Grays Harbor County Assessor’s Office which last appraised in 2009 before the fire, deemed it worth $356,500, $97,500 of that for the land. Sbai says the $750,000 remodel by Trans Northwest Construction, Inc. in Lacey, will no doubt increase the valuation.
Thursday of last week, as Sbai and Bonney stood in the alley on South H St., Police Chief Bob Torgerson and Deputy Police Chief Dave Timmons happened by and offered Sbai the opportunity to post signs in the windows that allow police to remove criminal trespassers.
That afternoon the signs were up, pleasing Sbai who thinks he may have lost a tenant to the presence of people loitering in the area. This past weekend he visited the building and noted their absence.
In a call Wednesday, Sbai confirmed he signed off on the building and that the contractors are still wrapping up painting and fixing water damage spotted in the largest rental space.
Artist Jenny Fisher also seems to have completed touching up of the mural heralding the history of transportation on Grays Harbor. It was damaged when paint ran down onto the artwork. Her work was paid for by the contractor, Sbai said. The mural created in 1989, was repainted in 2012.
For more information about the building at 300 East Wishkah, call Sbai at 360-556-6932.
Erin Hart, a Daily World writer, can be reached at 537-3932, or by e-mail at email@example.com