A closer look at three important ways to improve the Jensen-Byrd District plan

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This is the site plan for the Jensen-Byrd District, as proposed by JB Development, a partnership between Wally Trace and McKinstry. A few changes would dramatically improve the development plan for the site, making it more inviting for the next fifty-plus years. (PHOTO: jensenbyrd.com)

When the Jensen-Byrd District plan was revealed in full for the first time last week, we rightfully noted the spectacular form and scale that the plan took. At 250,000 square feet, it’s the largest downtown Spokane development in nearly a generation. And by including space well-suited for high-tech and biotech companies, it could mark a turning point in Spokane’s overall economy.

But it’s important to note also that the site plan has some significant pain-points, challenges which we expect to be resolved before the developer is granted a building permit. It’s easy to forget that once a building is built, it’s likely to remain there for at the very minimum, fifty years (well, most of the time). That’s why we need to ensure that this development is held to a high standard: the University District is intended to drive Spokane’s economy in the 21st century and beyond. To create a place fit for the next fifty-plus years, we need to do better than the current plan. Here are some concrete steps to making that happen.

1. Create a better, more inviting, and more distinct north landing for the University District Pedestrian Bridge. In the current plan, a pedestrian crossing the bridge northbound will land facing the parking garage, where it’s unclear whether there will be a clear path forward to the Jensen-Byrd Building itself. At this landing, there should be some wayfinding information, as well as other active space, such as retail on the first floor of the parking garage. Imagine an inviting cafe or coffeehouse with outdoor seating and programmable space. There should also be an easy path through the parking garage to the Jensen-Byrd. (It appears that there may be an alleyway of some kind for this purpose; how could this alley be made more inviting for pedestrians? Overhead lights? Restaurant space a la Mizuna?)

2. Develop a phased master plan for the overall site, including development for the surface parking lots included in the current site plan. There’s zero justification for the surface parking lots to remain on the site plan, given the 450-space parking garage included in the first phase. This land would be better put to use in the interim as open space or public parkland; in the future, it should be developed to support the continued growth of the University District. As of now, however, we don’t know when or whether that will happen. This planning and building approval process should include specific planning for these sites.

3. Repave the section of Main Street in front of the Jensen-Byrd Building with brick, and close it to vehicles, to create a more inviting pedestrian landscape and a plaza of sorts for events and special occasions. Even if the street is not closed to vehicles, it would be more vibrant, more interesting, and more programmable if paved with brick. Imagine Friday food truck gardens or Saturday farmers’ markets on this site. Paved with brick, this could become a huge selling point to any potential tenant of the Jensen-Byrd District development.

Overall, these three changes could go a long way toward improving the Jensen-Byrd District plan. It’s unclear what degree of flexibility to public comment the developers will have, but it’s worth a shot. Fortunately, it’s likely that design review will be required for this project. We will share information on public comment when it becomes available.

In the meantime, your best bet to offer feedback for the project is to use the comment form on the development’s website. Be sure to select “other” for the contact category so it’s directed to the right people. Perhaps we can make a difference in improving this project.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Would these improvements help improve the Jensen-Byrd District plan to make it more future-proof and vibrant? Would you approve of a better connection from the Pedestrian Bridge, given the large amount of public funding going to that project? What about brick paving for Main Ave? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments below. We love to hear from you!

 

BREAKING: Massive 250,000 square foot Jensen-Byrd District promises adaptive reuse, space for tech/biotech companies

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If everything goes as planned, by 2018, the Jensen-Byrd Building in Spokane’s University District will grow into a mixed-use area of its own, featuring tech/biotech offices, retail, retaurants, and an athletic center over 250,000 square feet. (PHOTO: jensenbyrd.com)

 

Earlier this year, WSU Spokane awarded a contract for remodel and reuse of the Jensen-Byrd Building to a partnership of Seattle developer Wally Trace and the local office of design-build energy efficiency firm McKinstry. We knew that the partners had significant plans for the site, but now we’re getting our first look at the project.

And it’s absolutely spectacular.

Not content to simply remodel the historic Jensen-Byrd warehouse, JB Development will develop a massive, 250,000 square foot adaptive reuse of the main building and the Pacific Produce Building and construct a new 442-space parking garage, a 50,000 square foot retail and fitness center, and an 84,000 square foot mixed-use tech/biotech office building. The result will be what they are calling the Jensen-Byrd District. Aimed at tech and biotech companies, the buildings will feature the large floor plates, modern data connections, and retail amenities that large companies expect, but which don’t exist at this point in our city.

In other words, if marketed correctly, these two buildings could help Spokane land a major tech or biotech tenant. It’s a dream that’s been building for a while, with significant investment in the University District (including the Pedestrian Bridge, expected to be complete in 2018) in pursuit of attracting private companies. With the right targeted action and marketing, now we have a specific site that could accommodate those demanding tenants.

Jump after the break for more discussion and renderings.

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1400 Tower promises to (finally!) add 52 units to West Riverside

 

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The seventeen-story, 52-unit 1400 Tower will rise on West Riverside between Browne’s Addition and Downtown Spokane. This conceptual rendering shows the view from Riverside. (PHOTO: Nystrom + Olson Architecture)

Ten years after his initial proposal was scuttled by a tumbling real estate market and opposition from Peaceful Valley neighbors, Spokane developer Mick McDonnell has begun work again on his major, 17-story condominium project at 1404 W. Riverside in downtown Spokane. The $20 million project will add 52 units to this quickly-revitalizing area of the West End. Other area projects include the West End Lofts, a brewery incubator and ceviche bar, and a number of other proposals.

The 1400 Tower will include 275,000 square feet of total space, and Mick McDowell hopes to start constrution in the autumn of this year. In addition, the project in its current form includes three stories of underground parking, totaling 76 spaces, accessed from the Peaceful Valley. This works out to around 1.5 parking spaces per unit. It’s worth asking whether that’s more parking than is necessary for an urban-designed, downtown condominium complex with numerous other parking garages within a block or two. Is it worth the potential traffic inconvenience to Peaceful Valley residents when there are other secure parking garages nearby? Perhaps McDowell could make a deal with one of the nearby garages for discounted overnight parking. This would reduce the impact to other neighborhoods and encourage more people to use transit, walk, and bike to work. (And when the complex is downtown, that shouldn’t be too much to ask.)

Either way, we’re excited for the prospects of the 1400 Tower, and we look forward to its completion. As the West End turns a corner and Spokane’s housing market heats up, we can only hope for increased activity there and in the rest of the city.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Are you excited for the 1400 Tower to get started? What do you think could improve the proposal? — retail? a restaurant? units for rent or lease? a different front entry? a larger public area? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. We love to hear from you!

UPDATE: Land use shenanigans continue as annexation could bring another sea of surface parking to Southgate District

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The conceptual site plan for the South Regal Lumber site from South Regal Street includes a mess of car-oriented retail and another veritable sea of surface parking in an already saturated Southgate District. It’s neither mixed-use nor consistent with a vibrant urban neighborhood district. (PHOTO: Spokane Planning)

Last week, we posted about an absurd land-use situation in Indian Trail that could result in a 1,500-unit housing complex. The post went crazy-viral all over social media. Now we’re back with a similarly-absurd situation at the opposite end of our city, in the Southgate District.

Here, Spokane Housing Ventures, an affordable housing developer with a laudable goal to provide living space to lower-income folks, proposed to annex and re-zone a chunk of its property into the City of Spokane. Spokane Housing Ventures would develop its site into affordable units. Great!

But here’s the problem: the City Council expanded the annexation proposal to include the former South Regal Lumber property. Local developer Cyrus Vaughn would develop this area into several pads for car-oriented commercial spaces, such as fast-food restaurants and coffeeshops, medical offices, and a grocery store space likely focusing on organic products. (Important Update: Despite recent rumors that the proposed grocery might be Whole Foods, this would not square with that retailer’s recent trend toward smaller, more compact, more pedestrian-oriented stores. Whole Foods also tends to prefer more central locations within urban areas. Alternatively, it appears that the retailer in question is actually Natural Grocers, which has recently expanded into the Spokane market with a Northside store.)

In all respects, the Cyrus Vaughn project at the former South Regal Lumber property is a vehicle-oriented development. This despite the fact that the development is located just a block or two from a City of Spokane-designated District Center.

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Kendall Yards goes high-design in 2016 planning and construction projects

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Kendall Yards is going modern in its attempt to woo more retailers and restaurants to its commercial district. The Bluff Building, shown here from the Centennial Trail, will offer a permanent indoor space for the Night Market. (PHOTO: Spokane Planning)

Kendall Yards continues to grow in its quest to woo more retailers and restaurants to its burgeoning commercial district, and more residents to its growing array of townhomes, condos, and apartments. Three major buildings will continue or commence construction this year, further enhancing the new urbanist oasis. Unfortunately, none of the three buildings will offer a strong mixed retail/residential component, but as the district continues to develop, we anticipate more of those types of projects to come on line.

Read on for more on the projects anticipated in Kendall Yards for 2016.

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This 1,500-unit suburban apartment complex would hollow out Spokane’s urban core

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This 1,485-unit apartment complex, seen here in a conceptual site plan, has been proposed by developer Harley Douglas for the North Indian Trail neighborhood. It should be opposed at all costs. (PHOTO: Spokane Planning)

Every so often, a developer proposes an amendment to the Spokane Comprehensive Plan. It’s an involved process which involves agency review and comment, SEPA review, public comment, Plan Commission hearings, and City Council briefings. It can take as long as a year. And it’s designed to be difficult. The Comprehensive Plan serves as the roadmap for the future development of Spokane, so it’s not meant to be easily bendable to the whims of developers or special interests. It’s meant to guide development in a manageable way that serves social, economic, and environmental interests.

In North Indian Trail, a developer (Morningside Investments, LLC and Harley Douglass) has proposed one such Comprehensive Plan revision. The action would allow a suburban apartment complex of 742-1,485 units in the area of Windhaven Lane in what’s now a ghost subdivision. Neighborhood representatives and advocates are concerned about impacts on crime, traffic, and quality of life. But there’s a much bigger concern that threatens our entire city, and could alter our development patterns for years to come.

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Logan District blossoms as stage set for Matilda Building, a 57-unit mixed use project

The Matilda Building will rise on the Hamilton Corridor in the Logan District, with 57 apartment units and first-floor retail. Urban design abound. (PHOTO: Spokane Permits)
The Matilda Building will rise on the Hamilton Corridor in the Logan District, with 57 apartment units and first-floor retail. Urban design abound. (PHOTO: Spokane Permits)

In May, we reported on a major new mixed-use project set for construction on North Hamilton in the burgeoning Logan District. At that point, the “Hamilton Project” had just applied for a SEPA Review, the penultimate step in the process toward a building permit. Now, we understand, the project is just about ready to get underway.

The four-story mixed-use structure at 1008 N Hamilton will offer 57 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments aimed at young urban professionals, graduate students, and others interested in a University District living experience. A rooftop patio and barbecue will add to the available amenities. On the ground floor, over 17,000 square feet of retail space will be made available. One commercial unit has reportedly already been leased. Unfortunately, an excessively generous street setback may result in a more limited “urban”-style experience where people choose to access the storefronts via the parking lot, which will be located behind the building. Hopefully this grassy setback can be reduced to encourage people to commute to and from the Matilda Building by foot, bike, or transit.

Otherwise, we’re quite excited to see this project get underway, and we can’t help but notice the tremendous investment seen in the Logan District in recent years. If these projects succeed in urban form and character, there’s a potential for major disruption. There was Six on Hamilton. The Clementine Building. Gonzaga’s Boone Avenue Retail Center, or BARC. The John J. Hemmingson Center. And of course, the Hamilton Corridor Form-Based Code.

Are we witnessing the rebirth of Logan?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Are you excited for the construction of the Matilda Building, a major new mixed-use project on the Hamilton Corridor? Do you believe that this building, combined with other recent successes, will help herald a rebirth of the Logan District? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. We love to hear from you!

Behind Urban Outfitters, hidden retail awaits

There's a retail space on the Riverfront Park side of the Urban Outfitters building-to-be. Much of the space has already been leased, but there's still some availability. What should go there? (PHOTO: ALSC Architects)
There’s a retail space on the Riverfront Park side of the Urban Outfitters building-to-be. Much of the space has already been leased, but there’s still some availability. What should go there? (PHOTO: ALSC Architects)

Remember in late December and early January, when all sorts of rumors were flying about potential retailers to be built at the corner of Main and Wall in downtown Spokane? Breathless reports of a “mystery downtown retailer” were relayed from various outlets, including Spokane Rising. All along, it was pretty clear that the retailer was Urban Outfitters. The company had already announced that an outpost of Anthropologie, its sister store, would be opening in the former Mobius Science Center space, and no one expected that one would come without the other.

When those reports were finally confirmed, we also heard that the new building for Urban Outfitters would feature an additional retail slot on the Riverfront Park side. But we haven’t heard much about exactly what type of business the space would feature. Renderings from the architect feature a bistro concept, but of course, that’s not set in stone. Now we have a better idea of how the space will be divided. While a major local entity will take a majority of the space, 500 square feet will be set aside by that organization for community-oriented retail of some kind. No decisions have yet been made about the type of business or nonprofit which will fill those 500 square feet. It’s a fascinating concept that we’re excited to see come to fruition, because it could do a lot for vitality and excitement on a 1990s-improved but still-disappointing Wall Street. The possibilities are enticing.

What type of space would you like to see there? There’s been a lot of talk lately about pop-up retail and public squares and cool local shops upon which one can randomly stumble. With only 500 square feet, there isn’t enough space for a major national retailer, but perhaps a local business or nonprofit could take the space. Even a cool bistro would be nice to see, and would certainly improve that street’s liveliness. What would you like to see? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments below. We love to hear from you!

26-story “Falls Tower” near University District promises to add around 200 units downtown

Here's a view of the proposed "Falls Tower" as it would look from Spokane Falls Boulevard. Note the large parking garage and comparatively narrow building. (PHOTO: Spokane Permits)
Here’s an early conceptual view of the proposed “Falls Tower” as it would look from Spokane Falls Boulevard. Note the large parking garage and comparatively narrow building. (PHOTO: Spokane Permits)

Back in November, a Spokane Valley dentist and developer, proposed a $50 million, 35-story high-rise at the corner of Division and Spokane Falls Boulevard in downtown Spokane. Many believed the proposal to be unlikely to ever come to fruition. But now, the lot at 230 N Division has resurfaced in a new proposal.

Lanzce Douglass has submitted an application to Spokane Development and Planning Services for a Pre-Development Conference on the proposal, which would construct a 26-story building which he calls “The Falls Tower.” It is unknown whether Philip Rudy, the dentist, is still involved. The new mixed-use high-rise would include 15,978 square feet of retail on the first floor, followed by about two dozen floors of apartments. That’s around 200 units (studios, one-bedrooms, and two-bedrooms). A six-story parking garage would also be constructed. In total, 26 floors would be constructed. Note the slightly more varied architectural style from Spokane’s most recent project, the Davenport Grand Hotel. Still, windows seem to follow a relatively generic form and minimal balconies or interesting architectural treatments are included.

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KREM incites NIMBYs over Browne’s Addition project; everyone else yawns

Yes, the loss of two arguably-historic homes is sad, but let's not turn to hyperbole. The replacement will also add something to the historic Browne's Addition neighborhood. (PHOTO: Fusion Architecture)
Yes, the loss of two arguably-historic homes is sad, but let’s not turn to hyperbole. The replacement will also add something to the historic Browne’s Addition neighborhood. (PHOTO: Fusion Architecture)

Okay, so the loss of two arguably-historic homes is indeed tragic, and we certainly should try to preserve historic buildings wherever possible. But we can’t help but feel that the hyperbole surrounding this project on KREM and other pages would be better directed at helping building owners discover the benefits of historic registration, or some similar pursuit. Because let’s face it: the homes’ replacement will certainly add something to the Browne’s Addition neighborhood as well. And let’s not forget that similarly-aged homes are frequently torn down elsewhere in North America due to their relatively young age.

Specifically, the “Browne’s Addition Apartments” (we’re really getting creative project names here) will add 21 new apartment units at 2335 W 3rd Ave in Spokane. The building will feature underground parking and, evidently, balconies for added space outdoors. We certainly won’t say that the architecture is particularly distinctive or noteworthy, but it is something new for the neighborhood, and a certain level of variety in housing options can only be a good thing. Let’s just hope that the next project is more of an extensive remodel than a total tear-down.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Should this developer have tried harder to save the units that once stood on this site? Are you excited to see a new project in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood? Share your thoughts below, on Twitter, on Facebook, or in person. We love to hear from you.