Garage-to-wine-pub redo wins state design award

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WALLA WALLA -- The renovation of a one-time garage into one of downtown Walla Walla's most distinct tasting rooms has earned Charles Smith Wines World Headquarters a coveted award from the Washington State Main Street Program.

The 5,000-square-foot tasting room and headquarters for Charles Smith Wines captured the award for "Outstanding Design or Rehabilitation" project.

In a prepared statement, Washington State Main Street coordinator Sarah Hansen said the "exceptional vision and innovative use of a former industrial space" captured the attention of the state organization that promotes and assists in revitalization of downtown commercial districts.

Smith, the owner of Charles Smith Wines and K Vintners, bought the vacant former Johnson Auto Electric building at 35 S. Spokane St. in 2008 for about $575,000, according to county records.

Two years later, he embarked on the building's renovation in a project that embraced the industrial nature of the property. The opening not only returned life to the building, it sparked new activity on an otherwise relatively quiet block, said Jennifer Northam, events and public relations manager for the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation.

"The rehabilitation of this property has created a viable, dynamic business in an architecturally unique space," Northam said in a prepared statement.

She said the tasting room's success has "spilled over to adjoining businesses, creating increased activity and spurring the neighborhood's property owners to pull together to make even more improvements."

Smith tapped Seattle's Olson Kundig Architects to integrate the old -- brick walls, exposed beams, concrete floors -- with the new -- skylights, offices, tasting bar, furniture and two 5,000-pound, steel-and-glass counter-balanced doors that when open serve as a canopy over the tasting room's sidewalk seating area.

The Excellence on Main Awards recognizes efforts toward building sustainable communities through downtown revitalization and preservation. The program operates through the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and is administered by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

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