Craft beer takes center stage as the local brewery scene explodes

Perry Street Brewing, one of several recent brewery openings, has attracted widespread attention and praise in recent weeks and months as it makes a name for itself in the South Perry District.
Perry Street Brewing, one of several recent brewery openings, has attracted widespread attention and praise in recent weeks and months as it makes a name for itself in the South Perry District. (PHOTO: KREM)

We realize that The #spokanerising Project focuses primarily on livability, urban development, and quality of life, but sometimes quality of life means something more than walkable neighborhoods and achieving urban density. It’s about the prevailing lifestyle of an area, how people choose to spend their time, where their passions lie. It’s about food, culture, entertainment, activities, and vibrancy. And so we pose the question. Has anyone else noticed that Spokane’s brewery scene has exploded recently?

Two breweries (Ponderosa Brewery and Young Buck Brewing) will be sharing the space previously occupied by Spokane Public Market, and another (Empire Brewing Company) will be opening at some as-yet-unnamed location. This in addition to the breweries either opened or substantially retooled in the past few years (NoLi, Iron Goat, Ramblin’ Road, Orlison, Budge Brothers, River City, Perry Street, etc.). Other would-be brewers have started crowdfunding campaigns in order to raise funds, some with more success than others. These breweries contribute to a sense of urban vitality and help develop Spokane’s unique culture. In cities like Portland and Seattle, local brewpubs and craft breweries play an important role in building a cohesive city identity. The same could be true for SpokaneWith all of our recent brewery openings and more on the way, it’s clear that beer makes Spokane a better place to live.

Craft Beer Week runs until Saturday, May 18. Local breweries are running specials, tastings, classes, and other cool and special events all week, so be sure to get out and get a sense of our local scene.

What do you think? Can beer play an important role in establishing a city identity from which to draw pride? Do craft breweries make Spokane a better place to live? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, on this blog, or in person. We love to hear from you.

Could “the market” by Safeway be one solution to our downtown grocery problem?

"the market" by Safeway occupies this urban corner in downtown San Jose. Perhaps it could be a solution for downtown Spokane?
“the market” by Safeway occupies this urban corner in downtown San Jose. It’s a fully-stocked store. Perhaps it could be a solution for downtown Spokane?

Supermarkets are important. Though in recent years, people have been moving away from traditional grocery stores and toward specialty retailers like Trader Joe’s and discount clubs like Costco, the problem of food remains a critical issue. In a vibrant urban downtown, it’s essential that a grocery store serve the population by providing nutritious, inexpensive products. It’s one of the necessities that will make-or-break a downtown from a livability and residential perspective. No grocery store? Good luck convincing families and young people to locate there.

Currently, Spokane has no real downtown grocery store. Yes, Main Market operates on the east end of Main, but it’s focused primarily on organic and specialty items (it’s more of a Huckleberry’s than a Rosauer’s). And yes, Grocery Outlet remains open near Browne’s Addition, but that’s not within walking distance of most downtown residents. No, what Spokane needs is a mainline or more traditional grocer. Something like Safeway. It could be one good fit. The chain in 2008 opened a store in downtown San Jose called “the market,” which offered everything found in a typical suburban store, but in a smaller format better-suited to downtown streetfront locations. It’s done quite well, and helped to usher in a sort of renaissance of downtown housing in that city. Perhaps Spokane could move in that direction? Or maybe Rosauer’s, as a local company, could offer a home-grown solution?

First, however, a developer needs to propose a building with enough first-floor retail space. That’s the most realistic scenario that would result in a downtown grocery store. What incentives are being offered for new construction downtown? Is there an incentive for opening a new grocery store there? What can be done to reduce red-tape for developers without compromising reasonable design standards? These are the questions that city leaders and citizens should be asking as we attempt to build a housing base downtown.

What do you think? Does downtown Spokane need a more traditional grocery store? Share your thoughts below in our comments section, on Twitter, on Facebook, or in person. We love to hear from you.

Huntington Park and City Plaza officially open to the public

Downtown Spokane is known nationwide for the Spokane Falls. With Avista's Huntington Park, the falls become more accessible (and beautiful!) than ever before. (PHOTO: Avista Utilities)
Downtown Spokane is known nationwide for the Spokane Falls. With Avista’s Huntington Park, the falls become more accessible (and beautiful!) than ever before. (PHOTO: Avista Utilities)

After almost a year of construction, last Friday, Huntington Park and City Plaza officially opened to the public. The new park and plaza, funded by Avista Utilities as a gift to the city in its 125th Anniversary Year, offer an up-close and personal view of the Spokane Falls. Featuring refurbished staircases, a new grassy area, and a shelter of sorts, the park is a marked improvement from its previous iteration. Even better, it offers a clearer entrance area: the soon-to-be-christened City Plaza offers an amphitheater-like area, a direct connection to Riverfront Park, and clear entry to the entire complex that doesn’t make it feel like you’re trespassing.

Perhaps more than anything else, Huntington Park offers a tantalizing vision of what Spokane’s future could look like with a potential full renovation of Riverfront Park, additional shoreline and river access improvements, and direct trail connections through the Centennial Trail and Kendall Yards. And we can’t help but notice that this park with dramatically increase property values for the Post Street Substation/Washington Water Power Building and City Hall. Perhaps it’s time for Avista to relocate the substation and turn it into loft condos? Better yet, perhaps the City could swap City Hall with a developer willing to build a residential tower. Anything to get more residents downtown!

Huntington Park and City Plaza are certainly the types of projects that will get them there.

What do you think? Have you visited Huntington Park yet? Would you buy a loft condo in the Washington Water Power Building? Do you think City Hall should relocate and sell to a developer?

Spokane’s biking and running “heat map”

Spokane's biking infrastructure apparently lags somewhat, with obvious deficiencies on the  north side. (PHOTO: Strava Labs/Google Maps)
Spokane’s biking infrastructure apparently lags somewhat in some critical areas, with obvious deficiencies on the north side and in the City of Spokane Valley. (PHOTO: Strava Labs/Google Maps)

 

Strava is a GPS tracking system that’s become quite popular amongst runners and cyclists. The app allows users to track their rides or runs and save them for record-keeping. Not content with merely providing a great service to end users, however, the company also anonymizes its data and compiles it in order to create a global “heat map” of its users’  biking and running paths. These paths can tell a surprising story, especially for Spokane.

Above, see the biking heat map for Spokane. Notice the areas where bikers are concentrated; namely, around Riverside State Park, the High Drive Bluff, and Beacon Hill. Notably, downtown seems to attract bikers as well; this could indicate that infrastructure is improving. That said, it’s clear that some critical deficiencies exist in the overall biking system. The north side between the Spokane River, Monroe, Havana, and the Mead area is almost a complete desert. Is this because people just don’t bike in that area, or is it because there is no infrastructure there? Would adding bike lanes in this area increase biking? A similar situation appears to be unfolding in the South Valley area. What could be done to improve utilization to the rates seen on the South Hill and elsewhere? Are there equity issues at play?

See more on running after the break.

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Idea #16: Create a week-long festival-like atmosphere surrounding Bloomsday

Bloomsday is one of Spokane’s most-cherished and best-loved events, attracting runners from all over the region and world. How could we better capitalize on its clear economic clout and increase civic pride? (PHOTO: BestRoadRaces.com)

The Lilac Bloomsday Run has been a Spokane mainstay for nearly two generations. Through its 38-year history, the race has grown into an event and spectacle unlike any other, featuring a full two-day trade show, a small festival of sorts in Riverfront Park, and the colorful characters and costumes that have helped make the event famous. The giant buzzard at the top of Doomsday Hill comes to mind. Or the woman who dresses as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz every year. Or the inevitable gorilla-suited individuals. Or the infamous bucket band. They’re quirky, weird, even bizarre, but they help make Spokane, Spokane.

What if we could extend this liveliness, this energy, this sense for the delightfully weird so that it could last longer, sustain itself longer, fester longer? What if we had a week-long Bloomsday Festival? This event could run the week leading up to Bloomsday, and it could feature nightly live music or family movies in Riverfront Park, food truck rallies, vendor sales, and street parades. We could bring in runners, triathletes, wheelchair runners to talk about training and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. This could be a great time to educate citizens and hold “ciclovia”/Summer Parkways-style events. Imagine a yoga session with a thousand participants in Riverfront Park. Or healthy-eating seminars at Riverpark Square and across the city. Or an “envision your future Spokane” session with planners taking notes from hundreds of engaged citizens; there could be no better time to get local input. Indeed, imagine the possibilities! Overall, the festival would focus on active, engaged lifestyles and maintaining balance in a 24-hour world.

What do you think? Could Bloomsday be expanded into a week-long festival of healthy lifestyles and civic pride? What events would you like to see? How can we grow civic pride by better utilizing our existing events? As always, we encourage you to comment below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.

The Value of Public Space in Urban Environments

“Pocket parks” like this one in New York City can create vibrant urban gathering spaces that entice passersby and residents alike. And they pay long-term economic dividends too! (PHOTO: Sustainable Cities Collective)

Urban Land reports on the importance of public spaces in making livable communities work. Specifically, the article focuses on the value of parks, gardens, rooftop gardens, and other spaces in urban environments, as well as the return that they generate. The High Line, in New York City, for example, cost the city $115 million in public funds and $44 million from the private sector, but increased boosted property values around the 1.5-mile elevated former freight rail line by as much as $2 billion and added 12,000 jobs to the local economy. That’s a killer ROI.

In addition, the article notes that safety and accessibility are key, as is adaptability. If the park or public space cannot be used for other purposes, then in many cases it may as well not be built. Hopefully the planners of the Riverfront Park Master Plan will keep this in mind when working on designs. We’ve also heard that the South Hill Coalition has some pocket parks and other small urban spaces up their sleeves as well, so perhaps we could see some nice urban spaces in neighborhoods in our future.

What do you think? Could Spokane use more urban spaces? What does the ROI for the High Line tell you about the economic potential of open space and public space investment? Share your comments here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you!

The case for co-opting Kendall Yards’ “Urban by Nature” slogan

From this vantage point, it’s clear that Spokane truly is “urban,” yet also is astoundingly close to nature. How can we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory identities? (PHOTO: Young Kwak via The Inlander)

What do you think of “Urban by Nature” as a refinement of Spokane’s current “Near Nature, Near Perfect” mark? Greenstone has been using that slogan to market Kendall Yards, but perhaps it would be better suited to market Spokane itself. It’s already proven to be more than capable of describing that mixed-use urban village development near downtown, where the Centennial Trail provides easy recreation access, yet also a five-minute walk to all of downtown’s urban amenities. Perhaps it could be re-tooled or re-purposed by Visit Spokane.

Sure, “Near Nature, Near Perfect” is great, but it fails to encapsulate the essence of our city because it neglects the urban amenities that Spokane offers. It’s clear from the mark that something is located close to nature, but just what is it? It could describe any size of city. What makes Spokane great is that it has all of the benefits of a larger city, and yet is still located just five minutes from amazing hiking and biking trails in Riverside State Park, or half-an-hour from Mt. Spokane. “Near Nature, Near Perfect” doesn’t work because it fails to acknowledge that. And who wants to be near perfect, anyway?

By contrast, “Urban by Nature” offers a somewhat obvious, yet also sophisticated alternative. We retain the “near nature” or “by nature” aspect, highlighting our region’s easy access to world-class recreation. But we also add the “urban” aspect, keying ourselves into what should be our target demographic: young urban professionals and entrepreneurs. It also highlights the broader trend in urban design and affairs: millennials aren’t living in suburbs like their parents did. They are living in cities. They want all of the amenities and benefits that come with living in a city and all the convenience and recreational amenities of the suburbs. Spokane can offer that distinct choice, and the “Urban by Nature” slogan offers a unique opportunity to show that off. The play on words only helps the cause.

What do you think? Would Spokane be better served by a better slogan? Would “Urban by Nature” be a good alternative? Or does “Near Nature, Near Perfect” still fit the bill? Share your thoughts in the comments, on social media, and in person. We love to hear from you!

Idea #15: A well-produced advertising campaign and manifesto

Portland has a clear, cohesive, and well-developed strategy surrounding its tourism and travel marketing. It’s an active, energetic campaign anchored by Portlandia-esque characters, a specific vision and brilliant visuals. More importantly, the campaign acts as a sort of manifesto for the city. You feel like you’re in Portland.

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Idea #13: Turn up the #Volume509

Spokane’s Volume Music Festival, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Inlander, is a great event that needs to grow even further in order to build Spokane’s music destination credentials. (PHOTO: The Inlander)

Spokane’s Volume Music Festival, which is sponsored by the Inlander, is a fantastic event that has grown by leaps and bounds since its early days several years ago. Now being held for two days in late May, Volume has exceeded the wildest expectations of many, helping to launch newer groups and grow fan bases.

But let’s dream bigger. How about attracting some more regional acts? How about using new venues (that Riverfront Park amphitheater can’t be completed soon enough)? How about committing to making the event 100% all-ages? We’re looking forward to this year’s edition of Volume, but we can’t help but wonder what the year after will bring, or the year after that. Let’s hope it retains its hyper-local, non-commercialized roots while finding a good mix of local, regional, and perhaps smaller national (think indie bands with smaller fanbases) acts. There’s much to love about Spokane’s music scene, and Volume is an ode to its liveliness and authenticity.

Crossroads

Downtown Spokane and the Spokane River is indisputably an incredible sight to behold, especially for first-time visitors. So why have we started accepting mediocrity? What’s with our inferiority complex? (PHOTO: Mike Gass on Flickr)

Since the earliest days of human settlement in the inland Northwest, the region has marked a critical juncture between conflicting forces. In a dramatic fashion, it is here that the dry, barren desert of the Great Basin comes together with the ponderosa pines and snowcapped peaks of the Selkirks. It was here that some of the earliest settlers of the Oregon Territory clashed with the Native peoples who had called this region home for hundreds and hundreds of years. It was here that David Thompson established the first long-term European settlement in what would become Washington state, noting the critical crossroads at which the area lies. It was here that one of the most important railroad centers in the entire western United States decided with Expo ’74 that it wanted something new, something fresh, something better. Indeed, the history of the inland Northwest is positively littered with critical transitions, crossroads, changes, conflicts. They’ve challenged us, renewed us, torn us down, and built us up. They’ve made us what we are.

Well, today, Spokane lies at one such critical crossroads in its history. 

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