Broadway Eyesore to Get a Makeover

The Merritt Building at Eighth and Broadway has been mostly vacant for decades. It has frequently been scarred by graffiti. 

One of Downtown’s biggest eyesores will be getting a makeover. If the project comes to fruition, it will continue an upswing on Broadway.

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Developer Bonnis Properties has announced plans to renovate the mostly vacant nine-story building at the northwest corner of Broadway and Eighth Street. The conversion would activate the upper levels, which have been empty for decades, and create nearly 50,000 square feet of office space.

“Our aim is to start work on it this month,” said Dimitri Bonnis, the Vancouver-based company’s project manager.

Bonnis acquired the building at 761 S. Broadway last November for $24 million. No budget or opening date has been revealed.

Industrialist Hulett C. Merritt constructed the Merritt Building in 1915. The Home Savings and Loan Association occupied it in the mid-20th century, but in the last few decades its upper levels, which feature stately columns running across five floors on the exterior, were vacant.

A lack of maintenance allowed the building to become an eyesore, as graffiti frequently appeared, including on windows and at the top of the structure. A previous owner’s plan to turn the property into housing never moved forward.

Maureen Hawley, vice president at the brokerage firm Jones Lang LaSalle, said the office conversion would add diversity to the stretch of southern Broadway, which is heavy on residential and retail projects.

“It’s encouraging they’re going to office,” she said.

Hawley said that with the building’s small floor plates — roughly 6,500-7,000 square feet per floor — an office conversion could appeal to startup companies looking for “creative” space.

The retail component is also being overhauled. Bonnis is looking to lease about 5,200 square feet of space on the ground floor, plus 3,000 square feet in the basement and another 1,200 on the mezzanine, according to Derrick Moore, a principal with the firm Avison Young.

One drawback, noted Hawley, is the lack of onsite parking. With many former open lots in the neighborhood now filled by housing complexes, tenants and the building owner will have to search for solutions.

The Merritt Building is on a block that has seen a number of new retail arrivals, including Footaction and a Gap Factory Store. On the other side of Eighth Street, the Broadway Trade Center is being transformed into a massive mixed-use project. The Ace Hotel is at Ninth and Broadway.