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.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that the Spokane-Spokane Valley area will see demand in the next three years of just 2,900 rental units. That means that half of the entire region’s housing demand will be met by this complex. In other words, less demand for units downtown, in Kendall Yards, on North Monroe, in the Garland District, in the South University District, and on East Sprague. Less demand for units where they are so desperately needed to improve urban vitality, quality of life, and in the case of downtown, pedestrian activation. A hollowing out of our urban core.

This development, and its associated Comprehensive Plan amendment, must be opposed at all costs. Fortunately, there’s still some time in the public process, and it’s expected to be contentious. But an influx of public comment, including from readers of this blog, could sway the process in our favor and in the favor of a strong urban core. Here’s how to make an official public comment on the proposal.

Written comments should be mailed, delivered, or emailed to:

Planning & Development Services
ATTN: Tirrell Black, Assistant Planner
808 W Spokane Falls Blvd
Spokane, WA 99201-3329

Written comments might mention the traffic impacts, the quality of life impacts–whatever you want. But most importantly, these comments should mention that the future of Spokane lies in a strong urban core. It lies in investing in brownfield developments like Kendall Yards and those in the South University District. The future lies in mixed-use developments where people walk, bike, and use transit. Not in massive suburban apartment complexes. It’s time to move forward in that vision.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Do you approve of this Comprehensive Plan amendment, and do you think that it would risk hollowing out our urban core? What could be done to improve the land use amendment process to ensure that only the best projects get approved? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Facebook, and on Twitter. We love to hear from you!