How to (temporarily) fix the empty lot at 3rd and Division

3rd and Division has sat empty, dilapidated, and decaying for more than five years. We might have a temporary solution. (PHOTO: Google Street View)
3rd and Division has sat empty, dilapidated, and decaying for more than five years since the Best Western Peppertree Inn proposal was abandoned. We might have a temporary solution. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

You heard it here first, folks: 3rd and Division is officially the worst intersection in Spokane. No, it doesn’t have the ruts and crumbling asphalt of High Drive and Grand Boulevard, but it does have an empty lot with extremely unsightly rebar and concrete, remnants of an abandoned low-rise hotel project which will be the subject of a future If It Had Happened post.

City leaders have repeatedly tried to entice developers to this site, starting with the original owners, who are presumed to have finally sold the lot in the spring of 2013. Naturally, 3rd and Division serve as a gateway to Spokane and the south end of the Division Street Gateway project, so it’s not surprising that the City is attempting to get more involved. But despite this interest, the site still sits, languishing further by the day. Literally nothing has been done to improve it in the interim, despite the fact that an extremely small investment could result in a much more pleasant intersection.

Here’s our short term solution: erect a temporary construction fence and set local artists loose. What do we mean? Check out some examples and a call to action after the break. We want to make this actually happen.

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Idea #8: A Dedicated HOV/Transit Lane on Division

(PHOTO: Greater Greater Washington)

Today we get specific in our run-down of our ideas for the greater Spokane area. We envision a dedicated HOV/Transit Lane on Division Street from downtown to the “Y” or even beyond. Such a lane could be implemented to improve traffic flow, lower emissions, and decrease commute times. With a virtual sea of lanes already in existence on Division, and with many vehicles carrying two or more passengers, the conversion of one lane could make a world of difference.

In other cities, such as Sunnyvale, CA and other areas of the Silicon Valley, similar HOV/Transit Lanes have been implemented in the right-most lane, with right-turns permitted from that lane. Other places implement the dedicated lanes in the left-most lane, targeting the facility toward commuters who must travel long distances on that street.

Either way, we suggest that an HOV/Transit lane be fully studied in order to determine the possibilities that it could offer in terms of reducing and calming traffic.

What do you think? Could an HOV/Transit lane make a difference in combatting traffic? Would it be beneficial to study this idea further? Would syncing the lights on Division be a better use of dollars? Let us know in the comments and in social media on Facebook and Twitter. We want to hear from you!

Idea #7: Public Squares

Seattle’s Westlake Park offers a signature gathering place for the city’s residents, tourists, and businesspeople. (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)

Spokane should invest in a public downtown gathering place, a public square for its people. Seattle has Westlake Park, shown above. San Francisco has Union Square, below the fold. We believe that a public square should be a priority for downtown as it continues to work to cast off the seedy image of its past.
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Idea #6: Popup Art Galleries

Spokane has its share of vacant and abandoned buildings. Fortunately, it also has a wealth of artists and designers. What happens when you put the two together? Enter a plan for popup storefront art galleries highlighted in last week’s Inlander. The idea is to develop “a corridor that carries visitors from one lively part of town to another by getting art into…empty storefronts on First Avenue.” Terrain co-founder Ginger Ewing and Laboratory owner Alan Chatham are spearheading this plan, which they believe will help make the pedestrian experience in downtown Spokane much more pleasant and enjoyable–and perhaps even safer. We just hope that it will get an airing from building owners.

The full article, including more of the excellent artwork featured above by Collin Hayes, is available here at the Inlander.

Idea #5: Municipal Gigabit Fiber

More than anything else, it’s been said that in order to build a greater sense of vitality in the city, Spokane needs to attract young, urban professionals. But how do we attract the jobs in technology, high-tech manufacturing, and  biomedical development which they require? Perhaps with something like gigabit Internet. You know, that startlingly fast network that Google is building out in Kansas City (and now Austin, TX and Provo, UT)? Spokane should attempt to build something similar for consumers and businesses alike.

Spokane certainly has the technological know-how. It developed the first major municipal WiFi network, the HotZone, spanning 100 blocks of downtown. Together with nonprofit and private partners, it built out the Terabyte Triangle, an innovative technology cluster once called “forward-looking” and “cutting-edge.”

If Spokane wants to move forward, it should look at building out or contracting with a partner to build out a gigabit internet network. I mean, just look at Seattle’s Gigabit Squared project. (Although that project has apparently since died, it represented a forward-looking vision for the city.) It’s time we developed something similar.

Idea #4: Large-Scale Public Art

While some around here may complain about large-scale public art, we think people are too quick to judge. Public art can be beautiful, expressive, and convey larger cultural truths about the area in which it is located. For example, some art pieces completed for the Vancouver Olympics represented the First Nations relationship to land, earth, and water. No word on what this piece, also from Vancouver, represents.

Idea #3: World-Class Outdoor Concert Ampitheater

Spokane needs a world-class downtown concert amphitheater. Shown here is Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a 11,000-capacity bandshell located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Luckily, just such a plan is in the works for completion as a part of the Riverfront Park Master Plan. While Spokane’s venue will probably hold more like 5,000-6,000 people, we do hope that planners take cues from Chicago’s stunning, award-winning design.

Idea #2: Complete the Centennial Trail. For real this time.

It’s time to complete the Centennial Trail. That means that we need to fill in the gaps. And not just some of them. We should fill in all of the gaps and completely separate pedestrian and bicyclist traffic from motorists, even in Spokane proper. The resulting Class I trail would span nearly 70 miles across two states, one of the longest and most widely-used urban trails in the United States.

Idea #1: Green Bike Lanes

It’s time for green bike lanes to hit Spokane. While the city has been making great strides toward increased uses for pedestrians and bicyclists alike, each step forward has been marked by a half-step backwards; for example, Second Avenue was reconstructed without a bike lane, despite master planning documents stating that one was to be included. Regardless, green bike lanes would better demarcate the lane for cyclists and further reduce traffic speed.