Downtown attire: Demo makes way for Waterhouse
It’s a momentous week for architect Bill Atwood. Five years after he purchased the Water Street Downtown Tire complex of buildings, once home to familiar places like Club 216, Eloise, and Sidetracks Music, it's all coming down this week to make way for his long-planned Waterhouse project, a $20 million, six-story mixed-use complex of offices, retail space, and apartments on top of a parking garage that will span the gap between West Water and South Streets.
“The demolition will definitely change the site,” says Atwood, “but it will become a clean palette on which to finally build the building.”
Originally, Atwood had a vision for a massive pedestrian village, complete with two nine-story towers, an underground parking structure, and a park of sorts that he hoped would “reinvent the block” by rescuing the beauty of the Lewis & Clark building from its isolated perch with a compatible neighbor along the streetscape.
Fours years and a financial crisis later, Atwood is just happy to be getting something built.
Ironically, the same economic forces that have stalled development projects across the country
may have helped Waterhouse. When Atwood still had plans to build two Landmark hotel-style buildings on the site, Lehman Brothers went belly up, and Atwood lost his loan for the project, which may have prevented his having three 9-story concrete shells crowding the Downtown skyline.
One of the major selling points of the original Waterhouse design was a high-tech underground parking structure, which Atwood hoped would alleviate, or at least not aggravate, the Downtown parking situation. The current design, however, could end up bringing even more cars downtown. While parking will be located in the first floor of the building, local company Worldstrides with its 200-plus employees is strongly expected to occupy about 45,000 square feet of the building, forcing other tenants and visitors to find spaces on the street or in other parking garages.
“Fundamentally, the world has changed,” says Atwood. “I don’t even know how you could pay for that underground parking idea today.”
Atwood says the clean-up will begin after the demo, and then it’s off to the Board of Architectural Review again for more approvals.
“It’s so difficult to get things done these days,” says Atwood, citing his project, the Landmark, and The Gleason as three fascinating case studies on the state of downtown development: one failure, one apparent success, and one that has taken years to get off the ground. “This project has changed so much. In the long run, it will be interesting to see who wins.”