By Zach Hagadone
Six months after a fire ripped through the buildings at 202 and 204 N. First Ave., destroying four businesses in downtown Sandpoint, signs of life will soon return to the space left hollow by the blaze at the corner of Bridge Street and First Avenue.
The owner of the property at 202 N. First, which once housed Headlines hair salon, Ol’ Red’s pub and The Hound pizzeria, has announced plans to rebuild and reopen a second iteration of The Hound. This time, however, the entire 8,000-square-foot space — encompassing both basement and street level floors — will be given over to the restaurant.
“We have engaged with an architect, he’s almost completed the plans. We’re pretty close to submitting for building permits,” said property owner R.J. Wilcox, who estimated permits will be filed within a few weeks.
According to Wilcox, who has owned the property for about four years, a builder for the project has been identified but, “with construction so hot right now, we’re not sure whether we’ll get a real good start on it this year.” Nonetheless, he said the plan is to at least get the foundation work completed before the cold weather sets in. The new Hound could be open as early as spring 2020, with a target for sometime in June.
“Our main goal is to keep the same atmosphere and vibe that we had but just increase what we offer and [the amount of] seating so we can serve more people,” said Hound owner Ben Higgs, who added that gaining a full kitchen means the restaurant will incorporate seasonal dinner and lunch menus featuring “dishes that you wouldn’t normally see at our restaurant.”
“It is a big project,” said Wilcox. The basement level will house food prep, the freezer, dishwashing and restrooms while the main floor — about 4,000 square feet — will be divided up between the kitchen, dining area and a front counter for takeout, which will include beer, wine, soda and water to go.
Plans are to rebuild the popular back patio overlooking Sand Creek, but Wilcox and Higgs said the new Hound will take al fresco dining one step further with a rooftop deck, complete with beer taps, which would add another 2,000 square feet to the restaurant’s footprint.
“It’ll be pretty cool if we’ll be able to get it done,” Higgs said of the rooftop seating, “but the goal would be to get it done two summers from now. It really depends on the budget of the build and the timing.”
While the new restaurant will be significantly larger than its former incarnation, Wilcox said the building will retain much of its former look — going so far as to use some of the original materials saved from the fire.
“We intend to reuse some of the brick if we can — as much as we can — because bricks don’t go bad,” he said. “We plan to do the awnings with the old style, with the turnbuckles. We intend to do some lighting fixtures that are reminiscent of those earlier periods. … I know a lot of people have been afraid of it being all glass and modern. That’s not our intent. We intend to rebuild it pretty much in the same style as it was.”
Sandpoint City Planner Aaron Qualls said rebuilding at 202 N. First Ave. is an opportunity to incorporate a range of amenities at a significant, high-profile part of downtown.
“It’s a gateway to City Beach, it gets a tremendous amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. It is right at, essentially, the gateway to the core of downtown,” said Qualls, who added that the property’s proximity to Sand Creek makes it all the more unique — and important in the context of the Parks Master Plan currently being put together by the city.
“Especially with its dual frontage to the creek, there are extraordinary opportunities for furthering a sense of place back there,” he said, describing the entire east side of First Avenue. as “the new front porch of downtown because of the visibility from the byway.”
Qualls said the city has acquired the boardwalk parcel on the west bank of Sand Creek and already some preliminary designs are in the works for improved parking, stormwater and pedestrian and bike connections to City Beach.
Wilcox said he’s keen to work with the city as designs for Sand Creek come together.
“We want to take advantage of that,” he said.
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