The future of Spokane depends on your vote

Upward view of U.S. Pavilion in Spokane's Riverfront Park, with rainbow-colored light show.
The fantastic U.S. Pavilion and the rest of Riverfront Park only came about because we believed in our city. Future successes will depend on our ability to keep moving forward, even in spite of obstacles. (PHOTO: City of Spokane)

I started writing this blog back in 2014. Spokane Rising started primarily as a way to maintain my connection to home while I was away at school, but I also wanted to fill a gap in coverage of the legitimately exciting things that were going on across the city.

STA was in the middle of a conversation over its Moving Forward plan. The Bartlett, an aspirational music venue which recently announced its coming closure, had just opened its doors. Kendall Yards was just getting underway. And Avista was putting the finishing touches on Huntington Park, which felt like a total revelation. It’s wild to think about where we were as a city five years ago, when I started the blog, versus where we are now. Let’s just say we are rising.

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Spokane needs compassion and social justice, not a “cure”

Homelessness is indeed more visible in Spokane, but we don’t need a “cure”––we just need compassionate, social-urbanist policies. (PHOTO: City of Spokane)

On Thursday, local developer Larry Stone (who is leading a project called The Falls on the former YWCA site on the North Bank) released a bad “Seattle is Dying” knockoff called “Curing Spokane.” Among other things, it calls for the sale of Spokane’s landmark transit center, a new jail, and free parking downtown.

The video is so distasteful and offensive that it really isn’t worth a response.

But because it offers “solutions” which not only don’t fit Spokane’s context, but also wouldn’t actually address homelessness, I think it’s worth asking what a social-urbanist response to our current homelessness crisis might look like. Follow along after the jump to explore some compassionate solutions that would dignify human life and offer all Spokanites––regardless of income or housing status-–an opportunity to thrive.

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News Roundup: Evans Brothers coming to Wonder Building

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Will we learn old lessons as we study parking downtown?

There are 12,658 parking spaces in the core of downtown Spokane. The City has initiated a parking survey to better understand users’ desires, but does it take account of old planning lessons? (PHOTO: City of Spokane)

As part of the Downtown Plan update due this year, the City of Spokane has contracted with Nelson\Nygaard to conduct a comprehensive study of parking options and usability in downtown Spokane and the University District, evaluating at a deep level how people travel downtown, the incentives they receive or don’t receive, and potential future improvements to the user experience. The survey is now live, and we encourage readers to take it.

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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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Wanted: Regional and national businesses to fill the Wonder Building

Wonder Building Spokane
The Wonder Building is the most exciting adaptive reuse in Spokane since the SIERR Building at McKinstry Station was completed in 2010. Like that building, the Wonder is expected to host businesses working in the creative economy. (PHOTO: Wolfe Architecture Group)

On Thursday, the development team behind the Wonder Building announced that the building would be marketed for lease by NAI Black and JLL to regional- and national-scale office tenants. Naturally, given that we once called this our favorite building in Spokane, we were quite interested in any new details which could be gleaned from this release.

The Wonder Building, located at 821 W. Mallon on the North Bank, will, at build-out, include 112,000 square feet of total space across three floors, including a basement and a 12,000 square foot public market on the ground floor. In addition, a rooftop patio and conference center will feature panoramic views of Riverfront Park, the Spokane River, and Downtown Spokane. The building is expected to be ready for move-in sometime this summer. We already knew about many of these details.

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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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Otis Hotel renovation moves forward

After lying vacant for more than a decade following a botched condominium plan, the Otis Hotel is set to reopen…as a hotel. (PHOTO: Spokane Historic Preservation Office)

It’s hard to believe that the Otis Hotel has already been vacant for more than ten years. But indeed, the former SRO hotel (which also went variously by names like Willard, Atlantic, Milner, and Earle) closed its doors to more than 200 low-income residents on September 1, 2007. In the time since, the Great Recession scuttled condominium plans and a tangled ownership structure complicated multiple bids at renovation.

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After 10 years, Spokane looks toward major downtown plan update in 2018

Under the cover of Fast Forward Spokane was a relatively forward-thinking, future-focused plan document highlighting policies related to environmental sustainability, housing, land use, and various other areas. The plan is being revised in 2018. (PHOTO: Fast Forward Spokane Plan)

The Fast Forward Spokane plan was released at possibly the worst possible time. In November 2008, the housing market had already burst. Big banks were already well on their way to a major bailout. People were losing their jobs in record numbers. But even at the height of the Great Recession, Spokane was finalizing a significant and visionary update to its Downtown Plan.

That plan turns 10 years old next year.

To mark the occasion, city officials will be working with residents, businesses, community groups, and other stakeholders to revise the document with an eye toward the next 10 years of development. Naturally, there will be many opportunities for community and stakeholder engagement. To that end, until early January, we intend to take a deep dive each week into our hopes and policy desires for the 2018 update. And we want your feedback! Continue reading “After 10 years, Spokane looks toward major downtown plan update in 2018”

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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