SANDPOINT, Idaho — This week marks one year since a fire destroyed two buildings and impacted around half a dozen businesses in downtown Sandpoint.
Since then, at least half of the impacted businesses have relocated and the city of Sandpoint says a new property owner plans to rebuild at the site of the fire.
The fire, which started in the basement of one of the buildings on First and Bridge Street, was ruled an accident by the Idaho State Fire Marshal last spring. At that time, authorities hadn't released a specific cause of the fire.
The fire in February 2019 caused between $4 and $7 million in damage. While a third building was affected, the two damaged buildings were condemned by city officials because they posed a public safety risk. City leaders said those buildings held four active businesses: The Hound Pizza, Headlines Salon, Sandpoint Chocolate Bear and Sandpoint Tattoo & Body Piercing.
Since then, the two pieces of property, which now sit empty, have been purchased by a new owner. Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Shelby Rognstad confirmed the news with KREM on Thursday.
According to Rognstad, the new owner plans to build a mixed-use building comprised of retail space in addition to office or residential space on upper floors. While Rognstad emphasized that the project was still in a conceptual phase, the city was pleased with what the owner had in store.
"We're really happy," Rognstad told KREM.
Commercial space would not only occupy the base level of the new building, but also potentially on the building's East-facing lower level by Sand Creek, according to the mayor. The project, which would incorporate "natural elements," would also serve as a flagship project for revitalizing a section of Sandpoint's waterfront space along Sand Creek, Rognstad said.
Notably, the new owner had also expressed an interest in reopening The Hound at the same site.
A timeline of the project wasn't immediately clear, but Rognstad said to expect building permits to arrive "soon."
While the fire forced several business owners to find new homes, some have since told KREM that their shops have rebounded.
"I was really happy yesterday when it was a full year gone," said Kim Bond who lost her hair styling business in the fire.
Bond's shop, Headlines Salon, has since relocated to a new space not far away on Cedar Street.
"It was really hard and really sad," said Bond of the fire that forced her into temporary space after working in the former building for over seven years.
Bond subsequently operated out of a spa off of Highway 2 before moving into her new location last September.
"I was so homesick to be downtown. So I love having my little spot here," Bond said from her new salon on Thursday.
She added that she was grateful and fortunate to have many of her original clients stick with her.
Michelle Eagan, who owns Sandpoint Tattoo, was also fortunate to find a new space just a stone's throw from her original location that was destroyed in the fire.
"My business has been great. Everybody has been supporting me and coming back," she said from her new tattoo studio, just two buildings down.
Like Bond, Eagan said many of her old clients were supportive and helped her stay afloat.
"It only seems like [the fire] was yesterday. It's still fresh in the memory. It hasn't gone away yet," she said.
Eagan said that a Chinese restaurant that was displaced by the fire has since found a new home in Sandpoint as well.
At least one impacted business didn't remain in Sandpoint, though. The owners of the Sandpoint Chocolate Bear opted to relocate to Spokane Valley after the fire destroyed their popular business.
Owner Dennis Powell previously told KREM that he and his wife didn't have time to wait for a Sandpoint rebuild since they also make chocolates for a store they own in Spokane's Flour Mill.
"We're hoping to someday go back there when we find the right location that's good for our business plan. We want to go back there," said Powell in October from Sandpoint Chocolate Bear's new shop on Trent in Spokane Valley. "It's life. You've got to continue. The universe keeps moving."
Back in Sandpoint, both Eagan and Bond told KREM they were eager to see the vacant land they formerly occupied rebuilt. Notably, both said they were excited to hear of The Hound's return.
"We would get pizza there all the time. We love the Hound, that was good food," said Eagan.
"The Hound was awesome. That is a great business," added Bond.