Creating a sense of place on North Monroe (NoMo?)

Hoffman Music on North Monroe is a great music store in a terrible building. The current window-less design limits pedestrian interaction and contributes to blight in the area. (PHOTO: Yelp)

Here’s a difficult brainstorming exercise: how can neighborhood leaders and developers work together to create a sense of place on North Monroe? With the area currently serving primarily as a “drive-through” area between downtown and the north side, and a four-lane street with narrow sidewalks limiting pedestrian access, similarities might be drawn to the Hamilton corridor.

Except here, there are old buildings. Historic brick buildings. Like the Jenkins Building, which is set to get underway soon with 10-16 likely-affordable units. There’s a real history here, with great streetfront properties primed for revitalization. With Kendall Yards underway, perhaps it’s time for North Monroe to revisit its plans?

What do you think? Could North Monroe use some TLC? What could be done to help create a sense of place in the area? Streetscape improvements? A road diet, perhaps? What about a leg of a downtown streetcar? Then there are always PR options. We’ve always thought the “NoMo District” title could catch on. Maybe not, though (too similar to “no more”?). What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. We love to hear from you.

What could help the Garland District become more vibrant, like South Perry?

Spokane’s Garland District has a second-run movie theater, specialty retail shops and services, iconic buildings like the Milk Bottle, and popular and exciting events like the Garland Block Party. So why does it always play second-fiddle to South Perry?

The South Perry District on Spokane’s South Hill has become a vibrant, exciting neighborhood since the 1990s, with hip restaurants and trendy, eclectic retailers, and further expansion incoming. It’s become a sort of model for other areas of town, a brilliant success story of a district’s revitalization. The Spokesman-Review thinks that the Thursday Market played a big role, and I’m inclined to agree.

But what does that mean for our other major neighborhoods? The Spokesman article and a suggestion from Facebook fan Caleb Ingersoll made me start wondering: what could help the Garland District reach the same level of vibrancy, excitement, and virality? They already have a Street Fair, a Block Party that sounds like something that belongs in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, and a second-run movie theatre. They also have the really cool and historic Milk Bottle, a sort of Spokane landmark. On paper, Garland should be blowing South Perry out of the water. But that’s not happening. Garland always seems to play second-fiddle to South Perry.

Why?

I want to know what you think. Post your comments below in our comments section or on Facebook. Is it the lack of a destination Farmers’ Market? Do they need more hip restaurants and retailers? Streetscape improvements? Residential units? Let me know what you think.

#SpokaneStoke: A Weekend of epic proportions

The Bartlett’s beautiful stage will host a number of poets and live music acts over the course of the weekend as a venue for the Volume Music Festival. (PHOTO: The Bartlett)

This weekend is jam-packed. There’s a lot going on in the area, and we wanted to fill you in so that you can take full advantage of all of the opportunities presented to us here in the inland Northwest. Here’s a roundup of the most popular events going on around the area this weekend.

  • Volume Music Festival. The Inlander’s music festival grows again this year, with eight venues and 80 bands. More shows than ever will be all-ages, and with acts like Summer in Siberia, Terrible Buttons, and Water Monster, it’s sure to be an exciting event. Wristbands are just $17, and they get you into every show tonight and tomorrow. Even cooler, for the first time ever, there’ll be a discussion panel on the State of the Spokane Music Scene. For more information, and to plan your schedule, check out volume.inlander.com.
  • ArtFest. Sponsored by the Inland Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, ArtFest is Spokane’s major juried art festival. Brilliant paintings, stunning sculptures, and excellent photography will all be showcased, among other work. The event runs from 12p-10p today, 10a-10p tomorrow, and 10a-5p Sunday in Browne’s Addition. It’s free (including parking at the MAC garage, if that’s an issue for you, although we encourage you to utilize transit if possible), and there will be great music. For more information, click here.
  • SkyFest. After several years, SkyFest returns to Fairchild Air Force Base after a budget cut- and sequester-induced hiatus. The air show and vendor fair will be open Saturday and Sunday from 9a-6p, and will include all of the usual events. More information available here.
  • Spo-Can. The Elk’s second-annual craft canned beer festival will take place Saturday and Sunday in Browne’s Addition. Over 50 canned beers will be showcased, and four bands will be performing. More information by clicking here.

In addition to the above, Spokane Comicon is this weekend, in addition to a nature festival at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, farmers’ markets, and live music at the Rocket Market. Be sure to get out in the community check these events, and share your Spokane adventures using the hashtag #SpokaneStoke and #spokanerising. We love to connect with you.

Signs of life on North Monroe

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North Monroe’s Jenkins Building has a new owner with his eye set on major improvements. (PHOTO: Google Street View)

Add 10-16 units to the “under construction” or “proposed” downtown or near-downtown housing totals. The Spokesman-Review is reporting that the Jenkins Building, home to Alpine Bistro and Bakery, will be extensively remodeled and refurbished by new owner Mark Agee. Agee is the CEO of Pamiris, an HR management and payroll information systems company he started with his wife, and is well-known in the local community for his service to the low-income population.

The building, at 802 N Monroe, dates to 1910 and features both retail and office space. The upper two floors will be converted to 10-16 apartments, likely in keeping with Agee’s strategy of providing low-income housing for chronically underserved populations. An elevator will be added, and Alpine Bistro will remain. Regardless, the addition of new residents to this area of Spokane reminds us of 2007 plans to improve the streetscape on North Monroe. That plan called for traffic calming, tree islands, improved intersections, and a general revitalization a la South Perry. It should be interesting to see if those plans are revisited with the new redevelopment.

What do you think? Are you excited for the addition of new residents to the North Monroe area? Does this revitalization of a historic building bode well for the cause of historic preservation? Share your thoughts in our comments section below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.

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.

Craft beer takes center stage as the local brewery scene explodes

Perry Street Brewing, one of several recent brewery openings, has attracted widespread attention and praise in recent weeks and months as it makes a name for itself in the South Perry District.
Perry Street Brewing, one of several recent brewery openings, has attracted widespread attention and praise in recent weeks and months as it makes a name for itself in the South Perry District. (PHOTO: KREM)

We realize that The #spokanerising Project focuses primarily on livability, urban development, and quality of life, but sometimes quality of life means something more than walkable neighborhoods and achieving urban density. It’s about the prevailing lifestyle of an area, how people choose to spend their time, where their passions lie. It’s about food, culture, entertainment, activities, and vibrancy. And so we pose the question. Has anyone else noticed that Spokane’s brewery scene has exploded recently?

Two breweries (Ponderosa Brewery and Young Buck Brewing) will be sharing the space previously occupied by Spokane Public Market, and another (Empire Brewing Company) will be opening at some as-yet-unnamed location. This in addition to the breweries either opened or substantially retooled in the past few years (NoLi, Iron Goat, Ramblin’ Road, Orlison, Budge Brothers, River City, Perry Street, etc.). Other would-be brewers have started crowdfunding campaigns in order to raise funds, some with more success than others. These breweries contribute to a sense of urban vitality and help develop Spokane’s unique culture. In cities like Portland and Seattle, local brewpubs and craft breweries play an important role in building a cohesive city identity. The same could be true for SpokaneWith all of our recent brewery openings and more on the way, it’s clear that beer makes Spokane a better place to live.

Craft Beer Week runs until Saturday, May 18. Local breweries are running specials, tastings, classes, and other cool and special events all week, so be sure to get out and get a sense of our local scene.

What do you think? Can beer play an important role in establishing a city identity from which to draw pride? Do craft breweries make Spokane a better place to live? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, on this blog, or in person. We love to hear from you.

South Perry drug bust garage set for pedestrian-friendly studio-style space

This garage was the site of a drug bust several years ago. Now it's on the market.
This garage was the site of a drug bust about a year ago. Now it’s on the market.

Remember this garage? You know, the one in South Perry that was the site of a massive drug bust almost exactly a year ago? Well, it’s now on the market, and new owner NAI Black (think Dave Black) is looking for businesses that would be interested in moving into a brand new studio-style space. Zoned CC1-NC (Neighborhood Commercial within a “pedestrian-oriented, auto-accommodating” District Center), the 11,700 sf parcel is set for a pretty nice-looking 5,000 sf building with two suites that should fit in well with the new Perry Street Brewing/Woolnik’s Building. There’s a nice, wide sidewalk, street trees, garage-style doors, and a small parking lot in the rear. And while it’s unclear right now which businesses James Black is eyeing as tenants, dining, retail, and office (think architecture studio) is all on the table.

Jump after the break for the site plan and a nice-looking rendering.

Continue reading “South Perry drug bust garage set for pedestrian-friendly studio-style space”

Could “the market” by Safeway be one solution to our downtown grocery problem?

"the market" by Safeway occupies this urban corner in downtown San Jose. Perhaps it could be a solution for downtown Spokane?
“the market” by Safeway occupies this urban corner in downtown San Jose. It’s a fully-stocked store. Perhaps it could be a solution for downtown Spokane?

Supermarkets are important. Though in recent years, people have been moving away from traditional grocery stores and toward specialty retailers like Trader Joe’s and discount clubs like Costco, the problem of food remains a critical issue. In a vibrant urban downtown, it’s essential that a grocery store serve the population by providing nutritious, inexpensive products. It’s one of the necessities that will make-or-break a downtown from a livability and residential perspective. No grocery store? Good luck convincing families and young people to locate there.

Currently, Spokane has no real downtown grocery store. Yes, Main Market operates on the east end of Main, but it’s focused primarily on organic and specialty items (it’s more of a Huckleberry’s than a Rosauer’s). And yes, Grocery Outlet remains open near Browne’s Addition, but that’s not within walking distance of most downtown residents. No, what Spokane needs is a mainline or more traditional grocer. Something like Safeway. It could be one good fit. The chain in 2008 opened a store in downtown San Jose called “the market,” which offered everything found in a typical suburban store, but in a smaller format better-suited to downtown streetfront locations. It’s done quite well, and helped to usher in a sort of renaissance of downtown housing in that city. Perhaps Spokane could move in that direction? Or maybe Rosauer’s, as a local company, could offer a home-grown solution?

First, however, a developer needs to propose a building with enough first-floor retail space. That’s the most realistic scenario that would result in a downtown grocery store. What incentives are being offered for new construction downtown? Is there an incentive for opening a new grocery store there? What can be done to reduce red-tape for developers without compromising reasonable design standards? These are the questions that city leaders and citizens should be asking as we attempt to build a housing base downtown.

What do you think? Does downtown Spokane need a more traditional grocery store? Share your thoughts below in our comments section, on Twitter, on Facebook, or in person. We love to hear from you.

The Value of Public Space in Urban Environments

“Pocket parks” like this one in New York City can create vibrant urban gathering spaces that entice passersby and residents alike. And they pay long-term economic dividends too! (PHOTO: Sustainable Cities Collective)

Urban Land reports on the importance of public spaces in making livable communities work. Specifically, the article focuses on the value of parks, gardens, rooftop gardens, and other spaces in urban environments, as well as the return that they generate. The High Line, in New York City, for example, cost the city $115 million in public funds and $44 million from the private sector, but increased boosted property values around the 1.5-mile elevated former freight rail line by as much as $2 billion and added 12,000 jobs to the local economy. That’s a killer ROI.

In addition, the article notes that safety and accessibility are key, as is adaptability. If the park or public space cannot be used for other purposes, then in many cases it may as well not be built. Hopefully the planners of the Riverfront Park Master Plan will keep this in mind when working on designs. We’ve also heard that the South Hill Coalition has some pocket parks and other small urban spaces up their sleeves as well, so perhaps we could see some nice urban spaces in neighborhoods in our future.

What do you think? Could Spokane use more urban spaces? What does the ROI for the High Line tell you about the economic potential of open space and public space investment? Share your comments here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you!