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New life for old funeral home?

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Local attorney and urban rehabber Clay Gatens has proposed buying and renovating the Conrad Rose mansion and former Jones & Jones Funeral Home on South Chelan Avenue.

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WENATCHEE — A mothballed historic mansion that for decades housed a prominent funeral home could thrive again if a local developer’s plans to rehab the building get underway this summer.

The 107-year-old Conrad Rose mansion, home to Jones & Jones Funeral Home for nearly 90 years, could be stripped down to its studs — maybe stripping away any funeral-home stigma — and rebuilt as upscale, upstairs apartments and ground-floor offices.

Local attorney and developer Clay Gatens said Wednesday that, if all goes well, the column-fronted building at 21 S. Chelan Ave., across from Memorial Park, “could be reborn in all its grand and stately glory.” Gatens contacted media this week to launch a search for partners and tenants that can make that happen.

The building has stood empty since 2007, when local competitor Betts Funeral Service bought Jones & Jones from the Houston-based funeral conglomerate Service Corp. International. The two local companies formed Jones & Jones-Betts Funeral Home, while SCI retained ownership of the former Rose mansion.

The approximately 17,000-square-foot building — two stories with basement — sits on a 0.41-acre lot. Its top level currently has six apartments, its ground floor houses the chapel and funeral home spaces (viewing rooms, embalming room, offices) and its basement has storage for caskets.

Gatens said he’s reached a contractual agreement with SCI to purchase the building, but only if an investor group is formed and a project lender found by the end of summer. Originally listed at $4.7 million, the mansion’s purchase price has dropped substantially over the last five years to help bring the rehab’s total project price — building and property costs, construction, engineering and permits — to just around $2.3 million, he said.

The first step in the purchase process, said Gatens, is finding a main-floor tenant or tenants — probably a nonprofit organization or professional service such as a law firm, a real estate agency or county or city administrative offices — to anchor the project. That will help secure financing, which in the long term helps increase possibilities for government tax breaks and funding to rehab and re-purpose historically-significant buildings.

The building, based on Georgian-style architecture, is currently listed on the Wenatchee Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1906 by local fruit baron Conrad Rose and bought by Jones & Jones in 1924. Sharp-eyed visitors can spot variations in brick and woodwork amid the additions and improvements made to the building over the last century.

Gatens said he’s already enlisted MJ Neal Associates, a local architecture firm, to assess the building — “establish the pluses and minuses” — and determine some of the building’s must-do projects.

Those include restoration of the century-old bricks and mortar, replacement of wood accents, repainting woodwork and columns, checking for asbestos, installing a sprinkler system and wiring the entire building for Internet, WiFi and cable TV. Fully remodeled, the upper floor could have 10 apartments, each at about 700 square feet.

Gatens, 37, who moved to the Wenatchee Valley in 2009 for a job with law firm Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward, said he’s put together four similar projects in the Seattle area in the last few years — among them a 1920s-vintage terra cotta building in the Fremont District with a Caffé Vita coffee shop on the main floor and apartments above.

At Jeffers, Danielson, he specializes in real estate law and financing, has a background in land use and urban design and is a member of the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit that promotes urban rehabilitation.

There are always lots of moving parts to these projects,” said Gatens, “so all parties involved — investors, lenders, architects, contractors — they all have to have a passion for what we call ‘adaptive re-use of historical buildings.’ In short, making old building functional again.”

Gatens said he doesn’t see the project as “remodeling an abandoned funeral home,” but instead as “restoring a beautiful historic mansion with huge significance for Wenatchee and the surrounding area.”

He added, “It’s unique, it’s classic and it deserves to live another 100 years.”

Mike Irwin: 665-1179

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business or follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.

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