Idea #25: Convert visitors, students, and conference attendees into evangelists for Spokane

The Nest at Kendall Yards is an active, vibrant urban space that receives activation every day. Because this would not have even been imaginable just ten short years ago, it’s the type of space that exemplifies Spokane’s recent revitalization. (PHOTO: The Inlander)

If you follow Spokane Rising on Twitter, you know that a couple of weeks ago, I attended a conference in Buffalo, New York. The conference wasn’t related to the work done here, but it seemed that everywhere I turned, I was struck by a piece of inspiration that I would be able to bring back to this blog and to the Spokane community. Perhaps most pressingly, I was reminded of the necessity of taking pride in your community. Buffalo does this particularly well; having the term “Buffalove” certainly makes it easier. But there was at least one concrete piece from the conference opening keynote that we can bring back to Spokane: converting conference attendees and visitors into evangelists for the city. John J. Hurley, the President of Canisius College, delivered a speech that sung the praises of his city and his community.

There’s no reason we can’t do that here.

Let’s bring community leaders, university presidents, conference planners, and business leaders together. Let’s develop a framework for talking about the revitalization of Spokane. With the Davenport Grand, the recent Convention Center completion project, and nearly $1 billion in public investment to come within the next ten years, it’s time to sing the praises of our recent success. One thing that struck me about Hurley’s keynote at Canisius College was the way he inextricably linked the success of his school with the revitalization of his city. Why doesn’t the same happen at Gonzaga and Whitworth? Where’s the pride in WSU Spokane and EWU? Let’s build institutions which tie their identity directly to Spokane.

With conferences, we can work with organizers to develop a language for discussing Spokane. And let’s encourage them to include free days or arrival days for conference attendees to explore Spokane. When we send representatives of our city, whether from City of Spokane, Visit Spokane, Downtown Spokane Partnership, Greater Spokane Incorporated, or any other important local organization, let’s make sure they sing the praises of our city. Because the people with whom they speak will become evangelists for the city itself. Send them to Kendall Yards, to Browne’s Addition, to Coeur Coffee! Extol the virtues of Riverfront and Manito Parks! Exhort them to visit Flying Goat, South Perry, or the Community Block/East End. And then tell them to tell their friends, and for them to tell their friends. We have a lot to be proud of in Spokane, but there’s a lot to be said for making others excited about it as well.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What do you think? Do you think that it would be a good idea to encourage visitors to explore Spokane to make them evangelists for the city? What types of programs could encourage local leaders and conference planners to sing the virtues of Spokane? Or should we just shamelessly tell people to tell their friends (I prefer this option)? Post your comments below, join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or talk to us in person. We love to hear from you.

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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