"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

As people return to living in downtown Wenatchee, the spaces get a chic makeover

By on October 29, 2018 in Featured Homes with 0 Comments

This sunny room in the Rosvold Building, with three east facing windows and a bonus tree just outside, shows a clever use of multiple spaces — dining, storage and conversation areas are flexible for any occasion.

Story by Susan Lagsdin

Photos by Donna Cassidy

A growing stack of boxes, bins and bundles lines the broad hallway upstairs in the Rosvold Building on Wenatchee Avenue, and there’s a flurry of deep cleaning inside an almost-empty apartment #2.

Tall windows look down on busy storefront business, pedestrians and the muted bustle of traffic. The branch of an autumn tree sways in view, sunshine fills the room.

Christie Adams is moving out of #2, somewhat reluctantly. “I love it here,” she said. “I’ve been here two years, and this is the very best apartment I’ve ever lived in — I’m kind of sad I have to leave….”

Look again. This isn’t the same downtown you knew 20 years ago.

On any given evening on Wenatchee Avenue, there’s a lively vibe untypical of most cities this size. Bars, bistros and restaurants are open for business; music, movies and art events beckon; cars line the streets and couples stroll the sidewalks. Notably, the upstairs lights are on again in several older buildings.

Plenty of counter space and (generally) hidden-away storage shelves help expand the small kitchen. Notice the transom windows over the bedroom, a nod to a need for ambient light. Tenants bring their own furniture and in this case, an old-world, elegant chandelier and modern artwork.

Turning on some of those lights are downtown development devotees like Bob and Mike Salmon at the Morris Building, Rory Turner at the old Wenatchee Hotel Building, Roger Bumps on the Davis Furniture block, Curt Gavin above GPA printing and Dan and Cheryl Van Polen above the Performance Footwear site.

Older and affordable housing still exists on the Avenue, but this new mix of condos, rentable apartments and owner homes, with their mix of urban flair and historical ambience, signals that gentrification, in the gentlest sense, has come to Wenatchee’s main street.

In the 1940s, Community Development Director Steve King estimates, there were probably 1,000 to 2,000 people living and working in downtown Wenatchee. That number plummeted with America’s postwar suburbanization, but the people are coming back — and an estimated 400 now call Wenatchee Avenue their neighborhood.

King said, “Urban housing is great for the environment, in terms of efficient use of resources and fewer cars on the road — it also helps build a strong sense of community.”

The residential renaissance is a result of vision and optimism, and here’s one more example to applaud. Cathy Resch, a Pilates instructor and interior designer and her husband Tim, a building contractor, are gradually renovating the second-floor apartments above Cycle Central in the building owned by their friends Korey and Michelle Rosvold.

The Resches left their 2,500-square-foot Squilchuck Road house two years ago after a traumatic and expensive landslide evacuation, but that misfortune, as misfortunes sometimes do, pushed them to achieve a long-time dream – one of greatly simplified urban living.

Their first cooperative venture in the building, destined to become their own downtown digs, was a high-ceilinged single-bedroom unit with big windows that look down on the Avenue’s busy-ness with a peekaboo view of the eastern hillsides.

Cathy said, “When we first moved here, I didn’t have a car for a year, and it was great! We walked everywhere.” Her business, Studio One Pilates, and Tim’s Resch Renovation and Design office are close by, and shopping is convenient.

Cathy and Tim brought professional vision and skills to their own remodeled apartment, carefully coordinating old and new looks. This hospitable area, now light and bright, was originally a narrow, enclosed galley kitchen.

Wenatchee Avenue’s varied businesses and pleasures are just out their window or down a flight of stairs. The Resches refinished most walls with sheetrock but exposed and renewed the original brick when possible.

They happily adjusted to the radical downsizing. She said when they entertain friends in their chic 500 square-foot space, “It’s usually cocktails here, then dinner downtown and maybe a show.” (Which could mean just across the street at the PAC.)

Their favorite evening stroll leads them over the pedestrian bridge, down to Pybus Market and the riverfront, and back around from Orondo Avenue. They’ve discovered the unexpected tradeoff for moving two mature adults into a tiny space is increased flexibility and freedom, as well as a friendly neighborhood.

Their work is gradual, as they each maintain other businesses, but the extended remodeling project may eventually encompass the whole upstairs, 16 apartments total. Half are studios, half are one-bedroom units, and a unique and sensible working arrangement benefits the Resches, the Rosvolds and the tenants.

The much-used and lightly-maintained apartments have been rented out for years, but now as residents move on, each space receives a high-quality remodel of floors, appliances, cabinetry, tilework, paint, etc.

New tenants can buy in to the re-do and dramatically reduce their rent for a time, and several have opted for that investment.

Cathy and Tim’s compatible professions mean each of the varied spaces is getting plenty of attention. Older materials maintain the early-century look: deep molding, decorative radiator screens, exposed brick, original hardware. Most feature a stylish deep gray and cream paint scheme, Ikea cabinets, white and black subway tile, Craftsman doors, concrete countertops, and hard-wearing vinyl plank flooring.

The Rosvold Building on the northwest corner of Wenatchee Avenue and First Street has been improved upstairs and down, outside and in. Currently, the much-used second floor living spaces are undergoing renovation that maintains their historic ambience but adds some modern amenities.

There’s little need for tear-downs, but each of the units is a design challenge.

Some bathrooms and kitchens, oddly placed, stayed in place; most units easily opened up for maximum utility. One bedroom has a barn-door faced in shiny metal; another is lightened by high glassed transoms opening to the main room.

Who lives there?

Years ago, several units served as transitional housing for lower income renters; a few of those are still occupied. The newly-renovated spaces attract retirees and young professionals, part-time residents with homes elsewhere, commuters who work a few days a week in town. And the occasional student.

Christie — the young woman leaving Unit #2 — newly graduated from college and headed off on a major backpacking trip around Europe, has adventure straight ahead of her and a job in Seattle this winter.

But she said she’ll never forget living in the freshly remodeled, cute and cozy space above Cycle Central — the perfect home base for her life in Wenatchee.

This apartment — down the hall from the Resches — furnished by the tenant, features a new-look, old-style barn door at the bedroom with a finish to match the sleek, modern chairs and rug. This distinctive flooring is consistent throughout all the remodeled apartments. Photo by Cathy Resch

Cathy reclines in the living room, one small enough to demand judicious choices of art and furnishings but spacious enough for relaxing and entertaining company. Window seats installed over radiators added extra room.

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