Everyone should be able to live downtown

Buder Haven and the Marilee––two “housing first” developments designed for people experiencing chronic homelessness––show that downtown is the perfect place for affordable housing. So why aren’t we building more of it? (PHOTO: Architexure Photography)

Downtown Spokane is, unquestionably, the most desirable place to live in the city. Between one of the nation’s most beautiful urban parks, our region’s highest Walkscores, stellar transit access, and excellent dining, shopping, and entertainment, it’s not surprising that people want to live in the core. And in recent years, rental and ownership prices for downtown- or downtown-adjacent housing has reflected this reality.

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Four new luxury lofts join downtown residential roster above Nudo and Fire

Four new luxury housing units have been added above Nudo and Fire on West Sprague in downtown Spokane. (PHOTO: Tony Roslund/HDG Architecture)

In terms of number of units, it’s not a very large addition, but four luxury, high-design new housing units have been added above Nudo and Fire at 820 W Sprague in downtown Spokane.

On paper, this development might not seem notable, especially due to its small size and luxury price tag. But it seemed worthy of sharing, mainly due to its beautiful design. Architects and interior designers at HDG Architecture have crafted a luxurious set of modern, airy spaces which exude all of the sophistication you would expect of a big city, without losing the authenticity, character, and charm of Spokane. And of course, this being HDG, there are some special flourishes which befit their status as one of our region’s most recognizable design firms.

Jump after the break for more photos and details.

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The most important downtown Spokane business

Currently, Rite-Aid is the most important business in downtown Spokane. At least, if we want to continue to grow our residential base. (PHOTO: ky24941 on Flickr)

Nope. You’re not blind. The most important business in downtown Spokane is Rite Aid. Much talk is given to Nordstrom and Macy’s and Apple, but if our goal is to increase the amount of people living downtown, then Rite Aid remains critically significant to the area’s long-term success. Why? No other store downtown offers such basic needs. Where else, for example, could you purchase a toothbrush at 9pm when you realize that you need a new one? (Answer: nowhere.) When deciding whether to live downtown, people don’t worry about shopping. Our downtown shopping scene is already excellent. They worry about where they are going to find basic needs: food, medication, supplies.

Indeed, in order to drive long-term success in attracting young professionals to live downtown, city leaders and businesspeople should be focused on bringing more basic retail to the area. Attracting a grocery store should be the number one priority. (In contrast to Mark Richard’s proposal to close the Spokane Public Library branch and insert large-format retail.) Local favorite Rosauer’s could explore an urban concept store, or Albertson’s could build a local version of “the market by Safeway” (Albertson’s will soon complete its Safeway purchase). But one thing’s for sure: basic needs trump outside desires in the new downtown.

What do you think? Is Rite Aid the most important business in downtown Spokane? Do you shop there? Live downtown? What would be your most important store? Where would you like to see a grocery store downtown? And which retailer would you like to see operate it? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on Facebook, and on Twitter. We love to hear from you.

Speaking of a grocery in a remodeled Sherwood Building…

Grocery is the major issue holding downtown Spokane’s housing expansion from reaching hyper-speed. So is the Sherwood Building’s remodel the solution? (PHOTO: Sherwood Plaza)

On Tuesday, I tweeted as part of the #insteadofsprawl campaign that a grocery store on the first floor of the Sherwood Building, which is currently being remodeled into Class A office space on the second floor and above, would help downtown continue to expand its housing options. Currently downtown doesn’t have a mainstream grocery store within easy reach by foot or bike, but adding one would encourage more people that downtown can be a viable option even for families.

Now we have this rendering of what a remodeled Sherwood might look like. While the rendering may not be indicative of specific tenants or plans, it certainly may illustrate some of the thinking of the owners. Perhaps Rosauer’s or another local grocer could develop plans for an urban-concept store. Time will tell, but we hope this rendering indicates a possible path forward for downtown.

Why this blogger’s been MIA

Affordable housing need not be ugly. With land use policies favoring dense, mixed-use development and the relative cost savings of upward construction, design is coming more into play with these low-income units. (PHOTO: 555yvr.com/SFGate.com)

Why have I been absent? To put a long story short, I’ve been writing a lengthy paper on affordable housing and the implications of land use policy on its implementation. Take a look at the article on Scribd (or click after the break for a preview) for an interesting read. With Spokane’s visible homeless population, it’s clear that the current housing model in the area is not working. Perhaps some of our land use regulations and ordinances are to blame.

Read more after the break.

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Gonzaga District set to receive 60 additional student-housing units

This lot, at 940 N Ruby, is set to be transformed into a major 60-unit apartment complex aimed at Gonzaga University students. (PHOTO: Google Street View)
This lot, at 940 N Ruby, is set to be transformed into a major 60-unit apartment complex aimed at Gonzaga University students. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

A California-based developer is getting ready to start construction on a 60-unit apartment complex aimed at Gonzaga students but otherwise unaffiliated with the university. At 940 N Ruby, he will construct a five-story building with surface parking underneath residential units, a la Kennedy Apartments. A Pre-Development Conference and SEPA Review have been completed with an apparent determination of non-significance. The city’s permitting database has not yet been updated with appropriate approval documents, but with SEPA listed as “Closed,” it appears that this project is ready to get going.

While the project won’t be quite as pedestrian-friendly as the Kennedy Apartments (there will be a surface parking lot between the building and Ruby Street), five-story construction should add some much-needed density along this particular stretch of the Division/Ruby corridor. Project plans are available on the city’s Online Permit System. Combined with the Ruby Suites (former Burgan’s Block), Kennedy, and other Gonzaga-Downtown housing, this area has in seven short years increased its housing supply by orders of magnitude. Especially when you consider that 60 units here will probably house around 200 students.

No word on whether this is the 60-unit housing development KXLY reported as planned for “between the University District and downtown.” Anyone have any idea?

What do you think? Are you excited about the addition of new residential units on the Division/Ruby corridor? Are you excited about infill possibilities between Division and Ruby? What’s next for this area? Share your thoughts in our comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.

KXLY makes a major last-sentence announcement: 150 downtown units

Prium Companies’ 153 S Wall development, proposed in 2006, originally contained 96 units. KXLY is reporting that a Spokane developer has plans for a 90-unit development somewhere downtown. But where? (PHOTO: Prium Companies)

Spokane local news has a history of making off-the-cuff announcements without much substantiation or explanation. However, we were still pretty surprised to hear their latest scoop: 150 housing units downtown. In their latest story about downtown development, they dropped this bombshell:

We’ve also received word construction will begin next month on a 60-unit apartment complex set between the University District and downtown. A different 90-unit complex is expected to be built downtown starting in January 2015.

Who’ll be building these units? And where? How? When? Who’s the contractor? The architect? KXLY’s story leaves us with little new information.

We think we’ve nailed down the 60-unit complex “between the University District and downtown,” and though their story makes it seem like a project for the East End/West Main area, all indications are that it will be located on Ruby (near Chipotle). But we’ll bring you more on that tomorrow.

The big news is the 90-unit development set “to be built downtown starting in January 2015.” Who are KXLY’s sources? What are they hearing? It could be anywhere, but considering the scale of some of the most recent major downtown apartment proposals, it could be as significant as 153 S Wall, a major downtown development by Prium Companies which was scuttled during the financial crisis but which originally sought to build 96 units. Time will tell, and we’ll keep you posted.

What do you think? Are you excited for the addition of 150 units to the downtown or North Bank areas? Do you have any more information on either the 60-unit or the 90-unit projects set to start construction soon? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.