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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.