Century-old bare concrete will define Kount’s new office

A fifth floor is being added to the 1910 Langroise building for new tenant Kount. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Boise-based anti-fraud technology company Kount could have easily relocated into some anonymous office building in some anonymous business park in the suburbs.

That would not have suited CEO Brad Wiskirchen. He wanted a new space that matched the company’s culture, which he sums up with three words: open, honest and fearless.

Wiskirchen in spring will move Kount, now with 158 employees and constantly growing, across the Boise River from the Lusk Neighborhood into the 1910 Langroise Building — the Main Street building where a mobile crane closed off 10th Street from April until the end of September.

“This is the key to the whole thing,” Wiskirchen said. “This will be the new face of Kount. It’s saying we’re not afraid to take a big challenge.”

A rooftop patio will allow Kount employees to collaborate outdoors. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The heavy-duty redevelopment has given the structure a bombed-out World War II look with all the windows removed and window frames widened to bring more daylight in.

“They beat the tar out of the walls for the windows,” Wiskirchen said.

Various decades of tenant improvements with false ceiling were all stripped down to the walls and floors.

Kount and building owner Shane Felker of Sawtooth Development plan to keep concrete pillars and ductwork exposed, pretty much sticking to the 108-year-old building’s structural bones.

Kount CEO Brad Wiskirchen inspects his new rooftop office in downtown Boise. Photo by Teya Vitu.

“There was drop ceiling upon drop ceiling put in over the years,” Felker said. “As we peeled them away, we saw we could go vertical and have exposed concrete and mechanicals. To do that required getting lucky to get hooked up with some tech company (that appreciated Felker’s vision).”

Felker and Kount didn’t just stick to the existing structure. They decided to add a fifth floor on the roof that covers most, but not all, of the roof.

“It took a lot of vision,” Wiskirchen said. “I didn’t have the vision for a long time. Everything we did was for the optimal experience for our employees.”

Brad Wiskirchen

Kount was considering leasing the whole building, while Felker wanted to save the ground floor for retail. How about adding a floor?

“It’s a concrete bunker,” Felker said of the building. “I wondered if it would support going up. We took the concrete roof off, and that removed enough weight to support a fifth floor.”

The idea was to give employees the ability to collaborate outdoors and “hang out.” There will still be the outdoor patio, but the 7,000-square-foot space has evolved into a rather small nook for Wiskirchen’s corner office. The accounting department will also be on the roof along with a kitchenette, a feature in place on all Kount’s floors, and a board room able to seat 20 with a view of the foothills.

Kount is leasing floors two through four plus the new fifth floor and the basement, but the second floor will remain undeveloped for future expansion. Kount could ultimately accommodate 300 employees at the Langroise building, also long known as the John Alden building.

Bare concrete and ducts will remain visible in the Kount client services area and elsewhere in the Kount offices. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The third floor will have the sales and marketing office and customer support, while the fourth floor will have product development and technology.  The basement will have bike storage for 50 to 100 bikes, showers and a large meeting room.

Kount develops technology that can analyze hundreds of bits of data when a customer makes a credit card purchase online or on a mobile phone to determine if it is a valid or fraudulent transaction within 250 milliseconds.

Kount has shared a Lusk structure with its parent company, Keynetics, since 2005.

CTA Group was the architect and Andersen Construction is the general contractor.

Felker in 2013 bought the Langroise building that had been empty since about 2009-10. He first built the One Nineteen condos on the building’s parking lot and then scratched his head regarding what to do with the shuttered Langroise.

“We called it white noise,” Felker said. “People walk by it and didn’t even know it was there.”

The first ground-floor tenants, Neckar Coffee and Hue Salon, are already open even as the rest of the building remains a construction zone. Felker also signed up A Café; The Drop, from the Good Burger team; and Bodega Boise, an urban convenience store, deli and grocer.

Felker avoided national chains.

“One of the things that make a downtown urban environment interesting is it’s unique,” he said. “People who visit are looking for something they don’t have in their own downtown.”

Rogers Hotel renovations bring 12 apartments to downtown Idaho Falls

The Rogers in downtown Idaho Falls will have apartments, office and street-level retail when renovations are completed. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Creating apartments for downtown living drove Mike Allen in recent years to buy the historic Montgomery Ward and Rogers Hotel buildings that are across the street from each other in downtown Idaho Falls.

Allen since October has been renovating the third floor of The Rogers, first removing the interior walls, to create 12 apartment units in the three-story structure built in 1937. Between 2014 and 2017, he built eight loft-style apartments into the second floor of the Montgomery Ward building. The building also served for many years as the Ahlstrom Furniture store.

Allen and his family live in Swan Valley, about 45 miles east of Idaho Falls. They bought the Montgomery Ward building in 2014 with the initial thought of creating living quarters for themselves as their kids start attending high school in Idaho Falls.

They have not moved into the building, but all eight units have tenants, which led Allen to buy the Rogers building across the street to add more apartments. He has not put those on the market yet, but said he already has a waiting list for tenants.

The Rogers will have seven one-bedroom units from 750 to 1,000 square feet and five two-bedroom units at about 1,300 to 1,500 square feet. The Montgomery Ward/Ahlstrom building has five one-bedroom units at about 900 to 100 square feet and three two-bedroom units at 1,250 to 1,450 square feet. Monthly rents at both will be from $800 to about $1,600.

The Montgomery Ward apartments use the original hardwood floors from 1928 to 1929, while Allen is installing new hardwood floors at The Rogers. The Montgomery Ward has exposed brick walls and duct work, 12-foot-high ceilings and stainless steel countertops.

“The more people who live here improves the overall downtown community,” Allen said. “It creates a sense of connection to the community.”

Allen did not disclose the purchase or renovation costs of either building.

Historic Odd Fellows building in Idaho Falls sees renovation

New owners are restoring the historic look of the Odd Fellows building in downtown Idaho Falls. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Offices and a restaurant or two could soon fill the historic Odd Fellows building in downtown Idaho Falls, long home to an antiques shop.

Local farmers Kris and Tasha Taylor bought the 1908 Romanesque Revival structure in summer 2017 and a few months later bought the 1895 Hasbrouck building across the street. The Hasbrouck was made with lava rock and rusticated stone façade. The two buildings represent the couple’s first venture into commercial development.

“We’ve always wanted to invest in a building downtown,” said Tasha Taylor, not disclosing the purchase prices. “Our passion is to get downtown going. I think downtown will be a different-looking area in a couple years. A few residential projects are a year or two out.”

Tasha Taylor said downtown is already showing signs of growth and renewal. Other people are renovating the Rogers building from 1937, and the town is creating an event center in another downtown historic building. Developers are renovating the Bonneville Hotel building and working on downtown’s largest new construction project, The Broadway, which includes three-story and one-story buildings and a public plaza.

Tasha Taylor said the couple will release a marketing package for their Odd Fellows building in a few months. She expects that offices will use the second floor of the 16,000-square foot Odd Fellows building, and restaurants or commercial users will rent the ground floor and basement. There could be one or two restaurants on those two levels.

“The basement is one of the exciting things about the building,” Taylor said. “It has a tall ceiling and basalt and brick walls.”

The Taylors revealed one arched entry that had been covered for years and rebuilt another arched entry. They also blasted layers of paint off to show the building’s stone accents.

Renovations started in December and she expects the building to be ready for tenants by the end of October. Kramer Construction of Idaho Falls is the general contractor. Alderson, Karst & Mitro Architects is the architect.

Taylors have gutted the interior of the Hasbrouck building but have not yet started renovations.

Coeur d’Alene fills long-empty historic Montgomery Ward building

The Wiggett building in downtown Coeur d'Alene as seen in May 2017. Photo by Teya Vitu.
The Wiggett building in downtown Coeur d’Alene as seen in May 2017. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Sitting empty since 2006, the original four-level brick Montgomery Ward building in downtown Coeur d’Alene will be largely filled up by tenants by the end of summer.

Three Coeur d’Alene businesses teamed up to buy the 27,000-square foot Wiggett Building – as the building at Lakeside and Fourth Street has been known for decades – for an undisclosed amount.

The sale closed in July, renovations started in September and the owners plan to move their offices in at the end of summer, said Ben Widmyer, a member of Wiggett Partners LLC, the building’s ownership group.

“We took it down to the bricks and timbers,” said Widmyer, president of Widmyer Corp., a Coeur d’Alene development and property management company that will occupy 2,300 square feet on the second floor.

The other owners are The Murray Group, a downtown Coeur d’Alene health benefits consulting firm that will occupy all 5,200 square feet on the third floor; and Welch Comer Engineers, which will fill 7,000 square feet on the ground floor and lower level.

The new look for the 1928 Wiggett Building in downtown Coeur d'Alene. Image courtesy of Widmyer Corp.
The new look for the 1928 Wiggett Building in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Image courtesy of Widmyer Corp.

“Part of it is to practice what we preach,” said Phil Boyd, president at Welch Comer, which does extensive urban renewal work. “My wife and I had looked at that building for three or four years. The issue was parking.”

The city of Coeur d’Alene in December started construction on the city’s first parking garage a half block  north of the Wiggett building. Construction on the garage convinced Widmyer and Boyd to move ahead with buying the building. Widmyer had been Boyd’s broker on other real estate properties. They brought The Murray Group into the ownership group.

Welch Comer has about 30 employees and many, including Boyd, live near the existing Welch Comer office by Home Depot and Coeur d’Alene High School in the northeast corner of town.

“My commute currently is four minutes,” Boyd said. “It will be 15 minutes. I think I can handle that. Being downtown is desirable because there are so many activities and opportunities.”

Montgomery Ward occupied the Wiggett building from 1928 to 1966. Photo courtesy of Widmyer Corp.
Montgomery Ward occupied the Wiggett building from 1928 to 1966. Photo courtesy of Widmyer Corp.

Montgomery Ward occupied the building from its completion in 1928 until the retailer moved to the Coeur d’Alene Mall in 1966. Tenants since then have included Home Furniture Mart and, from 1988 to 2006, Wiggett Antiques Marketplace, which had to move out when a new building owner took over.

“It will be great to re-energize that section of Fourth and Lakeside,” said Hilary Anderson, Coeur d’Alene’s community development director. “We are continually trying to expand the downtown area.”

The building has stood empty since 2006 through three successive owners until Wiggett Partners came onboard.

“The market has improved,” Widmyer said.

Seejepp Creative will be another tenant and an undisclosed tenant will fill the corner suite at Fourth and Lakeside. A 1,200-square-foot space remains available on the ground floor and a 1,400-square-foot space is available on the second floor, Widmyer said.

Widmyer’s office now is in the 1908 Sherman Arms building that he bought and renovated in 2014 on Sherman Avenue, Couer d’Alene’s main downtown street.

Miller Stauffer Architects of Coeur d’Alene is the architect and T. LaRiviere Equipment & Excavation of Coeur d’Alene is the general contractor.


Alturas Capital buys downtown Boise’s turreted Adelmann building

The Adelmann building has always stood in front of the state Capitol. Photo by Teya Vitu.
The Adelmann building stands in front of the state Capitol. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Eagle-based Alturas Capital has acquired the iconic Adelmann building with the corner turret that stands between Boise City Hall and the Capitol.

Alturas bought the building from Maverick Investments of Long Beach, Calif., which had owned the 1902 structure since 2012. The Adelmann has had four owners since 2001, according to the Ada County Assessor’s Office.

Alturas intends to have long-term ownership of the historic building, said Devin Morris, director of acquisitions at Alturas Capital.

“We are all native Boiseans who are engaged in the community and excited to play a small part in its growth,” Morris said. “We believe in downtown Boise and want to own properties that have great locations that will continue to increase in relevance and attract fantastic tenants like the ones currently in the property.”

The sale closed July 5. The sales price was not disclosed in a news release but the 17,547-square-foot structure was listed at $2.395 million by Thornton Oliver Keller Commercial Real Estate and it is assessed at $2,225,700.

Alturas also owns Eagle Marketplace and Treasure Valley Crossing shopping centers and in December acquired the five-story 1444 S. Entertainment Ave. office building across from Boise Spectrum. Alturas has a portfolio of 13 commercial properties but this is the first in downtown Boise.

But Alturas has had an eye on downtown Boise.  Alturas in fall 2016 was in due diligence to buy the Capitol Terrace retail block on Eighth Street but ultimately withdrew.

“Ultimately, the project did not meet our investment criteria,” Morris said.

The Adelmann tenants include Boise Fry Company, Waffle Me Up, Dharma Sushi & Thai, Press & Pony, SpaceBar Arcade and Capital City Event Center. The building has two stories and an occupied basement.

“The tenants are doing very well and we want to help those tenants to succeed in whatever ways we can,” Morris said. “We will continue to invest in the property over time to ensure the tenants are operating at their maximum potential.”

An Adelmann building mural commemorates past tenant Stearns Motor Co. Photo by Teya Vitu.
An Adelmann building mural commemorates former tenant Stearns Motor Co. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The Adelmann building was built by Richard Adelmann, a German immigrant who fought in the Civil War and arrived in Boise in 1872. The architecture by  Campbell and Wayland is a mix of Romanesque, German and Chinese styles, most notably the pagoda turret at the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Idaho Street, according to the Idaho Architecture Project, which is part of Preservation Idaho.

The arched windows reflect the Romanesque style. There are German touches at the roofline, patterned brick and sandstone trim, according to the Idaho Architecture Project.

Notable historic tenants include Fong’s Tea Garden, an Elk’s fraternity headquarters, and an automobile repair shop called Stearns Motor Car. A modern mural on one side of the building commemorates Stearns.


Largent’s storefront in Lewiston goes back to 1910

Laurent's Appliance owner Craig LaVoie was surprised to find arches and glass under the facade of his Lewiston store. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Largent’s Appliance owner Craig LaVoie was surprised to find arches and glass under the facade of his Lewiston store. Photo by Teya Vitu.

All Craig LaVoie wanted to do was remove the decades-old yellow-red-orange tiles and slap a more modern facade on his Largent’s Appliance store front in downtown Lewiston.

The tiles started coming off Nov. 2. Immediately, history emerged: the original round columns from the 1910 structure. The word “typewriters” was stenciled on one post, likely in the 1930s, when an office supply store was in that space, LaVoie reckons.

“It was my day off,” LaVoie recalled. “I came in, like I do on every day off. My right-hand woman Patty Wenzel came up to me. ‘Change in plans. You can’t cover that up.’”

The Largent's facade before its 1910 look was revealed. Photo courtesy of Craig LaVoie.
The Largent’s facade before its 1910 look was revealed. Photo courtesy of Craig LaVoie.

The plaster façade that LaVoie believes dates from about 1940 was also peeled off, revealing three brick arches, one for each of three original business spaces that Largent’s now occupies. The arches, filled with windows, sat on four columns. Most of the original windows are still in place, with wavy century-old glass, LaVoie said.

The Largent's facade in the 1980s, before the appliance store expanded to fill three storefronts. Photo courtesy of Craig LaVoie.
The Largent’s facade in the 1980s, before the appliance store expanded to fill three storefronts. Photo courtesy of Craig LaVoie.

“Once it was exposed, we probably had 50 people stopping in every day saying they love the appearance of the building,” LaVoie said. “All the design work we had done hit the garbage can.”

That positive public reaction could spark other historic façade restorations on the Main Street stretch from Fifth to Ninth streets, which has about eight other century-old buildings that have been covered up for years, said Laura Von Tersch, community development director at the city of Lewiston.

“It wouldn’t surprise me … if (the Largent’s façade work) stimulates other property owners to do façade restorations,” Von Tersch said. “The public support has been so great. I think it’s incredible to reveal the historic building underneath.”

Right away, LaVoie and his general contractor, Don Stewart, owner of S&S Concrete Pumping & Construction in Lewiston, rethought the game plan. They had initially planned to remove the yellow-red-orange tiles, adding a new stucco façade above, and keeping the show windows in place.

LaVoie and Stewart decided to move the storefront back four feet behind the columns and arches to create an outdoor covered foyer.

Craig LaVoie
Craig LaVoie

“We are going to drop a chandelier behind each of the arched windows,” LaVoie said.

The brick façade above the arches, however, will be recovered with a new coat of stucco.

“It’s not a fire-hardened brick,” he said. “It doesn’t weather well.”

The drastic design changes “supposedly” will not change the cost of the original $50,000 project, LaVoie said.

“(Stewart) assured me we will make our original price,” he said. “That remains to be seen.”

LaVoie and his brothers, Kent and Steve, are third-generation owners of Largent’s, which their grandfather, Ralph Largent, started in 1930 in one retail space at the same location. The business passed on to their parents in 1957 and Craig LaVoie took over in 1989.

LaVoie said the arches of the building had been forgotten in the community. He said he found a 1940 photo with the glass and arches but they were covered sometime around 1942 to 1945.

“That façade has been up in excess of 70 years,” he said.

LaVoie especially wanted to get rid of the red-yellow-orange tiles that resemble the garish 1970s Houston Astros baseball uniform color scheme. He said his father installed those tiles in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

“It was the era of gold and green shag,” he said.

Once the tiles were removed, the workers found dry rot and then original columns. The two central columns, however, are only half columns, as they were attached to the divider walls between store fronts.

As LaVoie is removing the walls, the renovations will make those full columns. The quarter columns at the ends will become half columns.

Largent’s has occupied all three storefronts only in recent decades. In the mid-1980’s Largent’s only occupied the center space until expanding into the neighboring space to the 1912 Roxy Theater as Renee’s women’s clothing shut down. Largent’s expanded in the other direction about a dozen years ago when Hirzel’s Music closed.


Family relinquishes historic Perrault –Fritchman building in Boise

Jay Story bought the Perrault-Fritchman building, home to Goldy's Breakast Bistro. Photo by Teya Vitu.
Jay Story bought the Perrault-Fritchman building, home to Goldy’s Breakast Bistro. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The historic Perrault-Fritchman building that defines Old Boise has passed out of the Fritchman family hands for the first time since 1926.

Jay Story, who buys and sells commercial real estate with his Story Commercial at the west end of downtown, said the Perrault-Fritchman is a keeper.

“This is a long-term holding,” said Story, a former chairman of the Boise Planning & Zoning Commission. “I’m planning to move my office into the building. I spend a lot of time at City Hall.”

The sale closed Sept. 9 for an undisclosed amount. The asking price was $785,000. The assessed value is $578,400, according to the Ada County Assessor’s Office.

The 1879 Perrault-Fritchman Building is the oldest remaining commercial building in downtown Boise, nestled at the corner of Main Street and Capitol Boulevard and home to Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro and Goldy’s Corner.

The home was listed on Aug. 16 and immediately attracted offers, said Fred Fritchman, who managed the building for his mother, Beverly M. Fritchman, and aunt, Juliann M. Fritchman, the trustees of the two family trusts that owned the building.

The Fritchman family decided to sell the building after 89 years because the next generation has six people and the building’s income would not be viable when split six ways, Fred Fitchman said in August.

Jay Story
Jay Story

Jay Story bought the building with college friend Seth Kahn, who lives in San Francisco.

“I looked at the building almost every day when I walked by it,” said Story, who saw the Perrault-Fritchman listing in an email from Colliers International while he was on a family vacation. “I got in touch with my partner. He said: ‘Buy, buy, buy.’”

Story has no major plans for the building. The tenants will stay the same, though he will move into an upstairs office in about a year when a lease expires. He does intend to improve the heating and cooling system. He’s thinking of “fixing up the lobby,” which has a history display.

Historic properties do come with their challenges.

“I had trouble getting insurance for it, just because of its age,” Story said.