If It Had Happened, Part 1: 153 South Wall

PHOTO: Prium Companies

This Thursday we bring you Week 1 of a multi-week series focused on projects that would have happened had the economy not crashed. Many of the projects that we will profile were ongoing at the same time as each other, and as such, something had to give. There couldn’t be ten new major downtown high-rises at once, could there?

Indeed, there couldn’t.

Today we feature 153 South Wall, a project which was originally proposed in July of 2006 during the height of the downtown residential boom. The lot, purchased by Prium Companies of Tacoma for $750,000, would have been developed into 126 condominiums, with about seven floors of parking atop two floors of street front retail. In June of 2007, the project was shelved due to high construction costs. The lot was apparently sold to Inland Northwest Health Systems in July of 2009, although the site is still being used primarily as a parking lot.

Of course, this is exactly the type of infill project that Spokane so desperately needs, and we wish that it could have come to fruition.

To read more on 153 S. Wall, visit the Spokesman here or Prium Companies here. You can also see the Inlander here for a good article on the circumstances surrounding its shelving.

Shame on you, KHQ

A recognizable voice takes on a hostile inflection. Provocative questions are raised as questions appear on-screen. “More state funding is needed…but at what cost? And why does Spokane need this when STA routes are already in place?”

Barring the fallacious nature of that question (Who or what gives KHQ the authority to say that STA has sufficient route coverage? Isn’t that for STA and urban planners to decide?), it is clear the KHQ has overstepped its bounds with the promotion of this story. The role of the news media is to inform the public; not inform the public opinion. By taking a clearly anti-trolleybus stance in the run-up to Thursday, the station has chosen to pass judgment and deliberately influence the opinions of citizens. But their role as a news agency is not to tell viewers what is right or wrong. It is to tell viewers, clearly and precisely, the news. And only the news. Their job is to report, not to reflect.

Now, even if their main story finds that the trolleybus proposal is a good one that should be funded, a majority of their viewers, who do not watch KHQ Local News but do turn in for NBC primetime, will be under the impression that the plan is a bad one that should be tossed out. Simply because the promotional said as much.

We decry this shoddy communications tactic, and urge KHQ to make a full apology, post-haste. If you respect responsible journalism and envision a greater transportation future for Spokane than simply road improvements, we urge you to visit KHQ’s Facebook Page and leave a note in support of transit alternatives and opposing their ridiculous ad. And don’t forget to watch the story on Thursday and tell them what you think. The local media should not take sides in these critical debates about our city’s future. They should report the news. Only the news.

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Bennett Block to be Redeveloped Soon

nystrom + olson architecture is designing this remodel of the Bennett Block between West Main and West Spokane Falls Boulevard. Construction should be underway shortly, as demolition of the old Cyrus O’Leary’s restaurant is now complete. We love these new designs—they’re exactly what is necessary for this area to do well. Frankly, the renderings look somewhat similar to the Cannery in San Francisco.

The eventual and likely next step to infilling West Main? A mid-rise to high-rise brick building next door on the site of a current Diamond Parking lot and the reconstruction of the Howard-Spokane Falls and Stevens Spokane Falls intersections. Get on it, Ron Wells.

Downtown Spokane Partnership Proposes to Gut Library, Insert Retail

In today’s list of weird news, it looks like the Downtown Spokane Partnership is in very early discussions about the possibility of selling off and moving downtown’s Public Library in attempt to create more retail space. The news broke in the Inlander on Saturday, and the proposal is already drawing an extremely negative response on social media.

Downtown Spokane Partnership President Mark Richard says that the downtown area has had to turn down major national retailers due to the dearth of available large-scale commercial/retail real estate. “They’ve had to turn down H&M and other larger prospects downtown because we don’t have the space to provide them,” Richard said to the Inlander. River Park Square is indeed thriving, but so is the library; according to the spokesman of the Spokane Public Library, Eva Silverstone, 22,000 people per month use the downtown branch, with usage up year-over-year. Contrary to popular reports, the library is not fading, growing ever more popular with each passing month.

Still, downtown needs more retail space, and there are few good options. Mobius, the new(er) science center located across from Nordstrom, could move into a new space as it has been struggling in its current site. But that would only open up space for maybe one large-format retailer, like H&M. Riverside, Spokane’s historical “Main Street,” could be used to open up additional retail, with connections via Post, but unless a lot of retail opens both on Post and on Riverside at once, I can’t see people opting to walk two blocks out of the way just for one store.

My vote? Go all out. Demolish (or extensively remodel) the Macy’s Building and complete the Bennett Block redevelopment project as soon as possible. Then add an 8-12 story mixed use building next door on the current Diamond Parking lot. Finally, develop Riverside as a new retail node upon completion of those projects. (How would you add significant new retail opportunities to downtown? Comment below!)

It may seem like overkill, but indications from mall leadership are to the contrary. “If I had another two blocks of street front we would [still] be full,” Bryn West, the general manager of River Park Square told the Inlander last fall.

We’ll keep covering this story as it develops.

Former Huppin’s store to be remodeled and leased to new tenants

Without a doubt, I don’t know if we would have focused on that block without Walt Worthy building that Convention Center hotel.

Chris Batten, co-owner of the former Huppin’s property at 421 W. Main in downtown Spokane. Batten, along with business partners Bobby Brett and John Pariseau, intend to extensively remodel and lease the building to Spokane Exercise Equipment, among other tenants.

The full article, with architectural renderings, is available here at the Spokesman.