To incentivize redevelopment, City explores increasing height limits near Riverfront Park

Current building code allows for buildings along Spokane Falls Boulevard with roughly this “maximum building envelope”––in other words, the largest a building can possibly be built on these sites. (PHOTO: City of Spokane)

In the early 1970s, in the lead-up to Expo 74, civic leaders in Spokane decided to make a major change to downtown. In addition to relocating the railyards off of what became Riverfront Park, business groups and planners demolished broad swaths of heritage buildings on West Trent, then Spokane’s “skid row.” To distance the area from its seedy past, the street running through it was renamed “Spokane Falls Boulevard.” The short-term vision was to provide an ample amount of parking for the swarms of regional and international visitors who would soon descend on downtown, with future opportunities on the sites to be determined. Naturally, these plans never materialized.

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Almost one quarter of downtown Spokane is occupied by surface parking

There are 295 acres of surface parking in Spokane’s urban core.

There are only 1,250 acres of land in the urban core.

That means that 23.6% of all of the land in Spokane’s urban core is occupied solely by the temporary storage of motor vehicles.

If we assume a ridiculously-conservative average density of 25 units per acre, we could infill these parking lots with as many as 7,500 housing units. To put that in perspective, the full build-out of Kendall Yards will include just 1,000 units. (Just 300 housing units have been built in that neighborhood to-date.) Now, not every available block will be occupied by residences; other uses, like office, retail, public squares, civic spaces, are necessary as well. But it’s a useful thought exercise.

This is the next frontier of Spokane development. There’s more space available downtown for redevelopment than three Kendall Yards (which is an 83-acre site). With this much available space, there’s ample opportunity for creativity and innovation in the local development team.

Among other strategies, perhaps we could at the very least compile a comprehensive database of potential infill sites. This database should include information on the ownership of the various parcels, incentives available for redevelopment, and various statistics, like median income in the area, information on available utilities, and nearby amenities. In addition, include information on the planning and development process for these parcels. What type of permit review would be necessary? Would a SEPA application be required? Think of it as a more in-depth version of a site-selector. The result would be a much clearer development picture for developers and investors.

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Urban infill “Hamilton Project” takes next step toward construction with SEPA application

Preliminary drawings from Spokane's permitting website indicate that the mixed-use building at 1002 N Hamilton will include streetfront retail with apartments above. (PHOTO: spokanepermits.org)
Preliminary drawings from Spokane’s permitting website indicate that the mixed-use building at 1002 N Hamilton will include streetfront retail with apartments above. (PHOTO: spokanepermits.org)

We tend not to post on Spokane Rising about projects that have not yet been announced publicly, but this one just happened to catch our eye on the City of Spokane’s Citizen Access permitting website. We noticed the “Hamilton Project,” as it is named in the permitting database, a few months ago, when developer Ferdinand CJF, LLC applied for a Pre-Development Conference (typically a first, optional step in the building process). But now the Washington State-registered LLC has applied for a SEPA Review, which indicates a level of seriousness we have not yet seen at this parcel.

The project is located at 1002 N Hamilton, which is just across the street from the parking lot for Gonzaga University’s Madonna residence hall. Mercifully, the project seems to adhere to the Hamilton Corridor Form-Based Code (PDF link) despite its location outside of the applicability area. That means that it includes a mixed-use design, a limited street setback, and parking in the rear of the facility. Project plans include 51 residential units above over 17,000 square feet of leasable streetfront retail at a cost of over $11 million. Perhaps most importantly, the project scale and architectural design seems to fit in with the surrounding area. When we first saw the renderings, we thought we were looking at Gonzaga’s Coughlin residence hall, which shares a similar brick-and-stucco construction. Either way, we can’t wait to see this project come to fruition and will continue to keep our readers updated as it passes through the plan review and building permit application process.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Are you excited to see such a substantial mixed-use project on the Hamilton Corridor? Do you see the Hamilton Corridor emerging in the future as a viable neighborhood center a la Garland or North Monroe? Do you see this as a triumph for advocates of infill? Share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, in the comments section below, 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!

Boise adds “bicycle boxes” to its urban street grid

Boise is adding “bicycle boxes” as a better way to give cyclists the necessary space and comfort at red-light intersections. (PHOTO: Ada County Highway District)

The Ada County Highway District in Boise (their downtown street grid is managed by a highway district?) has announced that it is installing “bicycle boxes” at intersections on several major downtown Boise streets. These simple green markings have been used in cities like Portland and New York City to try to reduce vehicle-versus-bicycle collisions. They’re also experimenting with “buffered” bike lanes, in which lanes are separated from vehicular traffic by about a lane’s width of empty space.

This could be a quick, inexpensive, and bicycle-friendly solution to the problem of bike-vehicle collisions in downtown Spokane. It would be pretty cheap to implement, and could be completed as part of ongoing restriping and maintenance efforts (perhaps when Main is finally two-way?).

What do you think? What would it take to get Spokane to adopt this simple, yet elegant solution? Share your thoughts below, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. We want to hear from you!

Coeur d’Alene grows up as One Lakeside gets underway

One Lakeside will feature fourteen stories of apartments and ground floor retail. The mixed-use design will utilize beautiful architecture featuring abundant glass and a perfect scale for the city.

We don’t post too much about Coeur d’Alene here at The #spokanerising Project, but we couldn’t resist bringing the news that another new high-rise will soon join McEuen and Parkside Towers on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s north shore. Ground will be broken on One Lakeside this spring in anticipation of substantial completion within two years. The fourteen-story, 173-foot tall tower will feature a large increase in units for the lot and a fancy-pants rooftop pool.

While the project was delayed due to a lawsuit from owners of the condo building north of this site, that lawsuit has now been tossed and construction will begin promptly, first with demolition of the existing two-story apartment building currently on the lot.

For more renderings of One Lakeside, follow us after the break.

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Wait, there’s a District Center there? (Lincoln Heights edition)

The Lincoln Heights neighborhood features large-scale commercial (i.e. Petco, JoAnn Fabrics), fast-food restaurants (i.e. McDonald’s, KFC/A&W), and grocery stores (i.e. Safeway, Rosauer’s). Now a collaborative planning process is underway to try and get the center more in line with its District Center zoning.

The Lincoln Heights neighborhood’s primary commercial district, spanning along 29th Avenue from about Southeast Boulevard to about Thor/Ray, is a typical automobile-focused, suburban-style, parking-intense retail development. It is ordinary in every possible way. But did you know that the area is zoned as a District Center under Centers and Corridors?

Yes, despite the fact that 29th Avenue spans four uninviting-to-pedestrians lanes of traffic and that the primary commercial units are built with parking setbacks and drive-through windows, this area is zoned as a District Center. (Which probably gives some insight into the relative success of the City of Spokane’s urban planning efforts.) Under Centers and Corridors, the site is zoned CC2, which means that it should be pedestrian-enhanced and auto-accommodating. Naturally, this begs the question: where are the pedestrian enhancements and improvements?

Exactly the question that the City’s urban planners are asking. The Lincoln Heights area is currently under design and planning review for changes that could improve the pedestrian environment, resulting in more mixed-use buildings and, if we’re lucky, three- to four-story mid-rise architecture. Developers are reportedly in discussions with the City as redevelopment opportunities are assumed to be on the table at the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center and the older center across 29th. While Pita Pit recently moved in, Wheelsport moved out in anticipation of redevelopment spearheaded by Dave Black.

The first neighborhood meeting took place in November of last year, and more are planned for this spring. Last week, representatives from the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council walked the area with city planners in anticipation of the creation of a unified development plan. Those with comments are invite to contact Ken Pelton (kpelton@spokanecity.org), the Principal Planner for this project, or Tirrell Black (tblack@spokanecity.org), the Associate Planner. We at #spokanerising strongly encourage our readers to get involved in this project, email comments, and support a mixed-use development strategy for the neighborhood.

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.