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03/31/2007 - RenCorp Renovation Reaches U-District

The Terabyte Triangle began in 1997 to stimulate the downtown economy by encouraging downtown landlords to retrofit vintage buildings especially with optical fiber connectivity. The phrase ‘Baked Alaska Building’ was coined to describe the connected, vintage building. A ‘Baked Alaska Building’ has a “cool historic exterior that is wrapped around a white-hot center of advanced telecommunications and computer technology.” Many developers have subscribed to the concept, and a whole new greater Terabyte Triangle has now come into fruition.

RenCorp, a Triangle-based real estate development company since 2001, has been quietly renovating vintage buildings to create their own version of the “Baked Alaska Building.” RenCorp is an ABCD (architecture, brokerage, construction, and development) specialty company that especially likes working with older buildings. Their focus is historic preservation and adaptive reuse. They try to do things out of the norm so that each space they adapt is creative and unique.

RenCorp’s slogan is “renovating the past; developing the future.” This is exactly what they have done with several vintage buildings on the fringes of the downtown core. “The Edge”, the former Western Soap Building on East Sprague in the University District is their latest renovation and adaptive reuse project. When finished, this building will have nineteen lofts and two commercial spaces. According to Chris Batten Principal/Broker, this is an especially fun project because when finished, people will not be able to recognize The Edge as the same building. The ‘ugly duckling’ is going to be turned into a swan.

One of their favorite projects, according to Batten, was the restoration of the Gables (Spokane’s historic Engdahl and Gardner apartments) that was designed by Kirtland Cutter and built in 1909. The Gables is an excellent example of the early 20th century Tudor Revival style of architecture. RenCorp saved the building from the wrecking ball and led the renovation of the complex. Today The Gables has twenty-one renovated living units of which seventeen are set aside for low to moderate income tenants.

Another RenCorp project is the Jefferson Street Auto Lofts. This adaptive reuse project turned a former warehouse into a mixed use building with eight residential lofts, office space, and a parking garage. These lofts were priced for the moderate income buyer. When the lofts were offered for sale, the entire building sold out within two hours.

Most of RenCorp’s projects include secure parking with the sale. Not all of the projects have covered parking, but there is parking, and it is secure.

The extent of technology connectivity to the dwelling is left up to the tenant. If the buyer wants anything more than basic high speed access, RenCorp will make it happen. To date, the tenant demand has been under 5mb per second.

“At RenCorp, we love old buildings,” says Batten. “We look at each project in a new light, with new imagination, and try to adapt and give new life to old buildings. Our projects have impacted and changed the areas we have worked in; sometimes changing the whole neighborhood.”

RenCorp employs thirty-two people. Along with Batten, principals include Len Urgeleit in charge of construction; Tim Short, project manager; Gary Lauerman, architect; and Patricia Sampson, real estate specialist. Their office is in a creatively restored warehouse space at 114 West Pacific Avenue. They can connect to the SpokaneHotZone from their balcony.

To learn more about RenCorp, visit

Billie Moreland
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