Downtown stadium questions remain unanswered

Downtown stadium proponents released a new, glossy set of renderings for their proposal. The stadium would be built north of The Podium near the Spokane Arena.

A version of this piece originally appeared in the April 2021 edition of Spokane-Coeur d’Alene Living magazine. Subscribe at spokanecda.com.


The proposal for a downtown stadium has returned, and by all accounts the School Board is in a sprint as it makes a choice between the downtown option and continuing down its path of replacing Joe Albi Stadium at the Albi site.

It’s hard to believe that the downtown stadium proposal was first mooted almost three years ago. Back then, advocates proposed a five-thousand-seat stadium north of the under-construction sportsplex to house high school athletics, a minor-league soccer team, and other events. The proposal deserves more scrutiny now, in light of the coronavirus-induced downturn and a worsening local housing affordability crisis. It also deserves more scrutiny for the simple fact that it would be located downtown, on some of the most prime real estate in eastern Washington.

Unfortunately, most of the questions raised years ago remain unanswered today.

Continue reading “Downtown stadium questions remain unanswered”

Spotted: Renderings of a 21-story East End tower

Who knows if this is a real proposal, or if the current concept still looks like this, but I spotted this set of renderings for a 21-story tower on the East End of downtown on Main Street. The dramatic tower draws on the historic Paulsen Building and others downtown, but adds structural steel and glass, as well as a striking green facade. Located on the current site of Cruz Custom Boots and the former Riff dive bar, and on the north side of the block which will soon host the 206 W Riverside apartment building, this property is currently owned by the Cruz family, which apparently commissioned the sketches.

Spokane-based ALSC produced the images, which it notes illustrate a 185,000 square foot retail, office, and residential building. ALSC further notes that the concept exceeds current zoning regulations, which is unsurprising given the generally low- to mid-rise character of the area.

Who knows their level of interest, commitment, and financing available to this project, or whether it will come to fruition. (We do know that the Cruz family may be looking for nearby retail space for a development office and preview center.) But the visuals sure are striking.

BRT considered along North Division

BRT stations like this could be coming to north Division. SRTC is studying major land use and transportation changes along the corridor.

The Spokane Regional Transportation Council has partnered with WSDOT, the City of Spokane, Spokane County, and Spokane Transit Authority on a major transportation and land use study along the North Division corridor. The Division Connects project is analyzing the future of transit along the corridor, with the US-395 North Spokane Corridor set for completion in nine years.

The project’s key objectives include:

  • Identifying a preferred concept for bus rapid transit (BRT) along North Division.
  • Developing options for all modes within the corridor, including pedestrian and bicycling improvements.
  • Identifying opportunities for land use improvements.
  • Recommending capital project implementation plans to fund improvements.

The first phase of work involved production of a “State of the Corridor” report, which was completed in late spring 2020 and reviewed the existing travel patterns and land use patterns along North Division. It mapped the existing streetscapes along the corridor, travel times, transit ridership, and transit reliability.

The second phase, underway now, is analyzing four scenarios for possible streetscape improvements to accommodate BRT, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Let’s dive deep into the weeds.

Continue reading “BRT considered along North Division”

139 units coming to West Riverside

A local developer has filed for building permits on a new, six-story apartment building on the site of a former Umpqua Bank branch at 206 W Riverside in downtown Spokane. The project would feature 139 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments and 63 parking spaces, plus amenity space and possible retail at the ground level. The $22 million project is located along the City Line bus rapid transit line and the planned Riverside protected bike lane, which should make it appealing for students at the University District and those using alternative mobility options. Unfortunately, because the City does not require the inclusion of affordable units as part of new developments, there are no assurances that rent will be attainable for our local workforce.

The former Umpqua Bank property has been vacant for many years, and has been subject to significant speculation about its future, particularly after it was purchased by developer Kevin Edwards for $1.4 million in 2019. The pending building permits would expire in August, so we should expect this project to get underway before the end of the summer.

The city’s Design Review Board, which provides comment and guidance to developers and architects on major projects, recommended the development at a meeting in December. Seattle architect GGLO, which worked on many of the most notable multifamily and office projects in Seattle, designed the project, and Bouten Construction of Spokane will be the builder.

City explores car-first changes on 37th

In the 1980s, the City of Spokane began acquiring property for a project known as the Ray-Freya Crossover. These properties are generally still held by the City.

In 2017, the City Council wisely removed a South Hill project known as the Ray-Freya Crossover from the city’s 6-year Arterial Street Plan and the Comprehensive Plan. The project, which was sharply criticized by the community, would have created a new arterial connecting Ray and Freya through Ferris High School, and had been proposed in various forms since the 1980s.

In a compromise with City traffic engineers, the City Council funded a project analyzing car-oriented traffic alternatives to the project. That study is now underway, and we have our first look at the suggestions.

Continue reading “City explores car-first changes on 37th”

We must (gradually) defund the Spokane Police Department

The unjust killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department has rightly caused a groundswell of anger and frustration across the United States, which has manifested itself through at least 350 large, peaceful demonstrations in all 50 states. Protesters have expressed a variety of demands, but fundamentally, they center the right of black, brown, and indigenous Americans to exist in public space without fear or terrorization.

As we saw with Amy Cooper’s racist 9-1-1 call in New York, public space is inherently racialized. It’s our job as urbanists to advocate for fundamental change.

Spokane is not at all immune to these challenges. Spokane Police Department has a long-standing history of violence and unjust use of force, and continues to disproportionately use force in low-income neighborhoods and against black, brown, indigenous, and disabled Spokanites. Our community has been advocating for reform and change for years.

And yet, just months ago, an officer knelt on a citizen’s neck during an arrest in a similar manner to the way that former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. The Spokane Police Guild continues to hamstring independent oversight, and last year, members of the department shouted death threats at a citizen during an arrest. And that’s just a start.

Clearly, long-standing calls for change have not been enough. We need to dramatically recommit to the cause of abolition and decarceration right here in Spokane. In this short piece, I’ve collected a few ways we could get started.

Continue reading “We must (gradually) defund the Spokane Police Department”

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.

Continue reading “The future of Spokane depends on your vote”

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.

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

News Roundup: Evans Brothers coming to Wonder Building

Local

Regional

Continue reading “News Roundup: Evans Brothers coming to Wonder Building”

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.

Continue reading “Will we learn old lessons as we study parking downtown?”