Pre-Fab Deja Vu: Why can’t Walt Worthy learn from past mistakes?

Construction continues Walt Worthy's Convention Center Hotel. Pre-fabricated concrete panel installation has begun and is expected to progress quickly. (PHOTO: Trebor of Spokane on SkyscraperPage Forum)
Construction continues Walt Worthy’s Convention Center Hotel. Pre-fabricated concrete panel installation has begun and is expected to progress quickly. (PHOTO: Trebor of Spokane on SkyscraperPage Forum)

Look, we’re excited about Walt Worthy’s new Convention Center Hotel downtown set to open in 2015. We are. Really. But who was the genius that sold him on pre-fab construction? The guy (in)famously said after the Davenport Hotel Tower was completed to little fanfare that instead of choosing more attractive glass and steel, “investments were made on the inside of the building” (that’s a paraphrase). The same seems to be playing out across the street from the INB Performing Arts Center. Precast concrete paneling is being installed quickly and efficiently, and the familiar array of perfectly-aligned square windows is already beginning to take shape. Photos from Trebor of Spokane on the SkyscraperPage Forum provide us with a look at the construction (click the link for more photos of the construction progress).

Our question…is Walt obsessed with local pre-fab concrete company Central Pre-Mix Prestress? Actually, indications are…yes. Some of Walt Worthy’s largest projects have utilized the company. The Davenport Hotel Tower. The admittedly somewhat nicer-looking River View Corporate Center. The list goes on. All constructed by Prestress. With the major impact that the new tower will have on Spokane’s skyline, we have to wonder…at what point does the relative unattractiveness of downtown towers begin to harm economic potential? Would a statement building have been a better choice to attract conventions, visitors, and new businesses? Time will tell.

Until then, construction continues.

What do you think? Would a statement building featuring steel and glass have sent a better message? Is there a downside to these Worthian architectural choices? Why do you think he still hasn’t learned his lesson from the public outcry over the Davenport Tower? Share your thoughts in our comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. We love to hear from you.

UPDATE: Convention Center Hotel creates…a dead urban street?

Friday's rendering of the Convention Center Hotel, set to be complete in 2015, paints a bleak picture for development on East Main.
Friday’s rendering of the Convention Center Hotel, set to be complete in 2015, paints a bleak picture for development on East Main. (PHOTO: The Davenport Hotel Collection)

Okay, so there are windows, I suppose. But other than that, newly-released renderings reveal that Walt Worthy’s Convention Center Hotel won’t do much to improve the pedestrian experience on East Main. While in the past, pedestrians walking on the north side of Main were forced for walk past several surface parking lots, now they will have to endure four floors of above-ground parking with minimal facade improvements and interaction with the built environment.

Had the parking for Convention Center Hotel been built underground or in a better configuration, this could have been an incredible opportunity to revitalize two streets instead of one, especially with re-development at the former Huppin’s Building and at the Bennett Block, both of which are in the midst of major remodels. Imagine streetfront retail or restaurants on this side of the building. The result would have been a more continuous string of restaurants and smart downtown retail all the way to Main Market and beyond. That would have provided an economic boost and a cultural boost. This in contrast with the Spokane Falls Boulevard-side of the building, which looks comparatively excellent for pedestrian interaction and space (see a photo after the break).

Instead, we are left with a mostly uninviting urban environment reminiscent of the currently-empty downtown EWU Center.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, on Facebook, and all over the web. We love to hear from you.

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