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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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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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.

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

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!

Mobile Murals site at 3rd and Division apparently set for pseudo-strip mall

The proposed development at 3rd and Division eschews any attempt at an "urban form," instead falling back on more suburban-style amenities and features, such as 46 parking spaces. (PHOTO: Spokane Planning's Citizen Access System)
The Santillanes’ proposed development at 3rd and Division eschews any attempt at an “urban form,” instead falling back on more suburban-style amenities and features, such as 46 parking spaces. (PHOTO: Spokane Planning’s Citizen Access System)

First, the good news: it appears that the Mobile Murals won’t need to be around 3rd and Division for much longer, as a local developer plans to break ground on a new project there. Now, the bad news: said project will eschew any semblance of urban form in favor of a more suburban, strip mall-esque design.

Recall that local hoteliers Rita and John Santillanes, planning to build a Best Western Peppertree, purchased the lot in 2008 and moved quickly to demolish the existing Lutheran church that was on the premises. Funding fell through late in the year when Bank of Whitman collapsed. It never returned. Last year, the Downtown Spokane Partnership, City of Spokane, and Spokane Arts partnered, and along with other community groups like Spokane Rising, built temporary murals to create a more vibrant and exciting gateway to downtown than the rebar and concrete that had plagued the site for the preceding six years.

Now, Santillanes says she’s ready to restart development at the site. It won’t be a hotel; the nearly-complete Davenport Grand scuttled those plans. Instead, the two have planned a $2 million two-story mixed office/retail building, which will become the home of operations for their four Best Western Peppertree Inns. Office space will occupy the second floor, while Brooke Baker, of the presumed contractor, Baker Construction, hopes to find a fast casual restaurant (a la Chipotle) to occupy one of the several ground-floor retail slots. Great news, right? After all, now the lot won’t be filled with ugly urban decay and the Mobile Murals can move on to another unsightly empty lot.

Wrong. See the above tentative site plan from the Pre-Development Conference hosted with the City of Spokane’s Planning & Development Services Department. Note that the building is set back from the corner at 3rd and Division, features an obscene 46 parking stalls, includes a drive-through window, and includes few if any urban design elements. Now, we have not yet seen renderings, but as it stands, the design is “standard” in every sense of the term. Moreover, it conflicts with the principles set forth in the Division Street Gateway project, which seeks to improve pedestrian access/safety and beautify Spokane’s most important intersection. We can’t help but feel that this project flies in the face of those goals.

Luckily, there’s a simple fix. All Santillanes must do to improve the building, create a better pedestrian experience, and ensure that downtown Spokane does not become an extension of East Sprague or North Division, is construct this building to the corner, with parking in the rear. It’s a simple fix, but it’s one that would work, and it’s one that would make a difference for times to come in visitors’ first impressions of Spokane. Construction is anticipated to begin in May. Can we make a difference? Shout loud and clear to your nearest City Councilperson (click on the name of yours for contact information) that you think downtown Spokane deserves better. Contact the Planning Department directly. Or, better yet, the developers, Rita and John Santillanes. We can build a better downtown. The first step? Refusal to accept continued mediocrity.

What is Density? A Brief Explainer Video

Through the use of strong zoning guidelines, incentivized infill, and the city working with developers, Vancouver has gradually become one of the most dense cities in North America. (PHOTO: Planetizen)

With urban development becoming a hot topic around the Spokane area, we figured it would be helpful if we made a quick explainer video on density. Density refers to the amount of development within a given area, and it can have pretty broad implications for urban sprawl, vibrancy, transit, and even public health.

Watch the video on Adobe’s website, here.

After you watch, come back to this page and add your thoughts. Does Spokane have a healthy density balance? How can we prioritize increased density in the Spokane area? How can we increase the benefits of density while limiting its downsides? Comment on this post with your thoughts, or chime in on Facebook and Twitter. We love to hear from you!

Will the South Perry District finally gain urban-style residential units?

This pit at 907 S. Perry in the South Perry District has been empty for months. What's going on?
This pit at 907 S. Perry in the South Perry District has been empty for months. What’s going on?

The South Perry District easily makes the list of Spokane’s favorite neighborhood retail centers. It’s small, pedestrian-friendly, and inviting. And while it’s a great area, some lament that it doesn’t have enough quality housing for those who desire to be close to South Perry Pizza, Casper Fry, and Perry Street Brewing, among others. But a major construction project planning to get underway shortly could quickly change that. And perhaps teach Spokane a lesson about density in the process.

KCLH, a Spokane development firm led in part by principal Harold Preiksaitis (who happens to also be a local doctor) plans to build a $1.3 million, two-story, 13,000 square foot mixed use building at 907 S. Perry. On this empty lot. In this pit. The company tentatively plans to build lower-floor spaces for a restaurant and a medical practice, with residential units on the upper floor. While no permits have yet been received by the city, negotiations with tenants were underway last fall. While construction was scheduled to begin then, we’re thinking it was held up by weather and slow tenant negotiations.

Does anyone have any additional information on this planned South Perry mixed-use? Let us know by commenting below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We’d love to hear from you.

The #spokanerising Glossary

PHOTO: CLPhoto

Naturally, urban planning and development is confusing subject for some. It’s not exactly accessible; often, plans and documents are not publicly-available. Then, once you actually get your hands on the documents themselves, they aren’t exactly made for ordinary citizens to easily understand. But planning should be simple; after all, it’s foremost about interactions between people and the built environment. Our goal as a blog is to make these subjects as clear-cut and simple as possible. So today we’re starting a Spokane Urban Development Glossary.

In the near future, this post will turn to a page, which will be easily accessible at all times from the navigation bar. We’ll cover terms specific to urban development, acronyms and plans specific to Spokane, and our own embellishments which we may occasionally add to stories. Some of these embellishments are taken from a variety of sources, including MetroSpokane, the original Spokane development blog from which The #spokanerising Project arguably succeeds. We do this to further reflect our own point of view; that is, that planned development is something to be cherished, and that mixed-use should be preferred to auto-oriented big-box stores and strip malls. In addition, we believe that the Spokane Comprehensive Plan and the guidelines set forth in Centers and Corridors should guide all approved projects within the city. Now, that’s a lot of words. But what do they all mean?

URBAN PLANNING TERMS:

built environment: the human-made surroundings which provide the setting for human activity, ranging in scale from buildings to parks and green space, or from neighborhoods to cities.

mixed-use development: development projects which focus on two or more uses within the site; for example, a building may feature ground floor street-front retail shops and restaurants with apartments on the upper floors.

amenity: aesthetic or other characteristics of a development, either natural or manmade, that increase its desirability to a community or its marketability to the public; for example, a unified building design, recreational facilities, and public art would all be characterized as amenities

infill: generally mixed-use style development which occurs on previously-disturbed land or non-disturbed land within an existing urban area; significant because it does not contribute to urban sprawl.

brownfield: abandoned or underutilized industrial or commercial facilities or sites where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination; for example, Kendall Yards was a brownfield.

SPOKANE-SPECIFIC TERMS/ACRONYMS:

East Sprague Revitalization Project: a project to extensively revitalize East Sprague between Division and Altamont through streetscape enhancements, buffers, facade improvements, etc.

Division Street Gateway: a project planned to extensively revitalize the entry areas to downtown Spokane via Division Street through streetscape enhancements, pedestrian connections, improved signage, etc.

Kendall Yards: large mixed-use project currently being developed by Greenstone between Monroe and beyond Maple on the Spokane River’s North Bank; largest infill project in Spokane’s history.

Walt Worthy: major downtown hotel developer and owner/operator of the Davenport Hotel Collection; currently constructing a Convention Center Hotel directly south of the INB Performing Arts Center.

Centers and Corridors: the document which guides development in areas zoned “Centers and Corridors” (CC1, CC2, CC3); generally an exciting zoning guideline which emphasizes pedestrian uses and “accommodation” or automobiles.

Spokane Comprehensive Plan: the document which guides development in all areas of Spokane, including the types of uses allowed in each zoning guideline and various transit/street plans.

QUIRKY TERMS UNIQUE TO #SPOKANERISING:

the temporary storage of cars: derogatory term for parking, used especially often downtown

the All-Managing Rhombus: Diamond Parking; generally a derogatory term which refers to the unfortunate fact that Diamond Parking manages most of the surface lots in Spokane devoted to the temporary storage of cars; because Diamond Parking has a vested interest in its parking holdings, it generally prefers that these sites, which are prime opportunities for mixed-use infill, not be developed.

To be continued…

If It Had Happened, Part 2: VOX Tower

PHOTO: SkyscraperPage

This week, we bring you one of the better-documented failures of a Spokane development project. The VOX Tower was to be built at 223 W Riverside in the East End/SoDo District. At 32 stories, including 20 stories of residential space spreading across 275 apartments and condos, it would have been the tallest building in Spokane. In addition, it was to include a 380-spot parking garage and 18,000 square feet of retail space. ConoverBond was set to develop the project said to cost $50 million. All was prepared to be complete by 2009 after its 2006 announcement.

But then the project collapsed under the weight of Rob Brewster’s other projects.

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For more on the VOX Tower and Rob Brewster, click here for a great summary blog post at SpokUrban. Or click here for a great article on Brewster’s downfall at the Inlander.

Bennett Block to be Redeveloped Soon

nystrom + olson architecture is designing this remodel of the Bennett Block between West Main and West Spokane Falls Boulevard. Construction should be underway shortly, as demolition of the old Cyrus O’Leary’s restaurant is now complete. We love these new designs—they’re exactly what is necessary for this area to do well. Frankly, the renderings look somewhat similar to the Cannery in San Francisco.

The eventual and likely next step to infilling West Main? A mid-rise to high-rise brick building next door on the site of a current Diamond Parking lot and the reconstruction of the Howard-Spokane Falls and Stevens Spokane Falls intersections. Get on it, Ron Wells.