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!

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.

Spokane Public Market abruptly announces imminent closure

Spokane Public Market announced on Friday that it would close by this Friday, March 7
Spokane Public Market announced on Friday that it would close by this Friday, March 7. (PHOTO: Spokane Public Market)

Last Friday, Spokane Public Market announced that it would close its doors by this coming Friday, March 7. The Market opened at 2nd and Browne in 2011 to great expectations, but tepid customer support. The year-round food and artisanal-item market was designed as a centrally-locating gathering place that would be quickly expanded and remodeled into a more attractive space. These plans didn’t pan out, and within a year, it was controversially begging for support on its Facebook account, on posts that have since been deleted.

We can’t help but lament the loss of the Spokane Public Market as a civic resource, but we also question the back story behind the move toward its closure. The market has been languishing for years, with no major changes in order to attract more customers and vendors. With nearly 5,000 Facebook likes and a strong base of vocal support, we question whether everything that could have been done to save the market was done.

Regardless, Spokane Public Market will close March 7. Perhaps the space should be reopened as a combination public market-events center-fast casual food court a la San Jose’s San Pedro Square Market?

What are your thoughts on the Spokane Public Market closure? Share your comments below, engage with us on social media, and contribute a post in response. We want to hear from you.

Midwestern-style Restaurant to open on lower South Hill

We will focus on fresh food and local foods. We are not trying to be a fast-food restaurant.

Jeff Nordvall, co-owner of Wisconsinburger, to be located at 916 S. Hatch on Spokane’s lower South Hill. The restaurant will feature an eclectic Midwestern menu, and it’s expected to open in March.

Wisconsinburger will feature fried cheese curds and butter burgers prepared with local ingredients.

For the full article, including a map of the location, click here to visit the Spokesman.