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.

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KXLY land grab at South Complex?

This conceptual site plan for the KXLY site at Regal and Palouse Highway on Spokane's South Hill was presented by KXLY representatives at a Land Committee meeting of the Parks Board.
This draft/conceptual site plan for the KXLY site at Regal and Palouse Highway on Spokane’s South Hill was presented by KXLY representatives at a Land Committee meeting of the Parks Board. Note the plan to build a large mixed-use facility on land currently owned by the Parks Department and relocate the soccer fields to the rear of a new big-box store. Please note that this document is in the public record.

Following up on a tweet from last week, The #spokanerising Project can now report that KXLY representatives are in discussions with the Parks Board for a land swap that could result in a significant change in the recreation and parks facilities offered in the Southgate District, as well as the second of three major big-box developments that have been planned for the area. Please note: these plans have not been submitted to the Planning and Development Office. They represent conceptual drawings for the site that were presented by KXLY at a Land Committee meeting of the Spokane Parks Board in December of 2013.

That meeting resulted in a Letter of Intent, specifying broadly that the Parks Department would enter into an agreement with KXLY to swap land in order to ensure shared access and potentially shared parking. Essentially, the City would agree to swap a piece of land in order to create a shared driveway where the current South Complex parking lot is located, and potentially including the entire east end of the complex, if KXLY chooses to build a mixed-use building. In exchange, KXLY would grant to the Parks Department replacement soccer fields on the west side of their proposed big-box development, near and underneath their AM radio transmitter tower on the site.

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Wait, there’s a District Center there? (Lincoln Heights edition)

The Lincoln Heights neighborhood features large-scale commercial (i.e. Petco, JoAnn Fabrics), fast-food restaurants (i.e. McDonald’s, KFC/A&W), and grocery stores (i.e. Safeway, Rosauer’s). Now a collaborative planning process is underway to try and get the center more in line with its District Center zoning.

The Lincoln Heights neighborhood’s primary commercial district, spanning along 29th Avenue from about Southeast Boulevard to about Thor/Ray, is a typical automobile-focused, suburban-style, parking-intense retail development. It is ordinary in every possible way. But did you know that the area is zoned as a District Center under Centers and Corridors?

Yes, despite the fact that 29th Avenue spans four uninviting-to-pedestrians lanes of traffic and that the primary commercial units are built with parking setbacks and drive-through windows, this area is zoned as a District Center. (Which probably gives some insight into the relative success of the City of Spokane’s urban planning efforts.) Under Centers and Corridors, the site is zoned CC2, which means that it should be pedestrian-enhanced and auto-accommodating. Naturally, this begs the question: where are the pedestrian enhancements and improvements?

Exactly the question that the City’s urban planners are asking. The Lincoln Heights area is currently under design and planning review for changes that could improve the pedestrian environment, resulting in more mixed-use buildings and, if we’re lucky, three- to four-story mid-rise architecture. Developers are reportedly in discussions with the City as redevelopment opportunities are assumed to be on the table at the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center and the older center across 29th. While Pita Pit recently moved in, Wheelsport moved out in anticipation of redevelopment spearheaded by Dave Black.

The first neighborhood meeting took place in November of last year, and more are planned for this spring. Last week, representatives from the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council walked the area with city planners in anticipation of the creation of a unified development plan. Those with comments are invite to contact Ken Pelton (kpelton@spokanecity.org), the Principal Planner for this project, or Tirrell Black (tblack@spokanecity.org), the Associate Planner. We at #spokanerising strongly encourage our readers to get involved in this project, email comments, and support a mixed-use development strategy for the neighborhood.

If It Had Happened, Part 5: South Hill Walmart

Walmart's south Spokane store would have been built up to the street and would have featured rooftop parking. Please excuse the potato-esque quality of this image. (PHOTO: Spokesman-Review)
Walmart’s south Spokane store would have been built up to the street and would have featured rooftop parking. Please excuse the potato-esque quality of this image. (PHOTO: Spokesman-Review)

Today we delve into the politics and concerns of a local neighborhood as we revisit perhaps the single most controversial development project in the history of the South Hill. In 2006, big-box retailer Walmart proposed building a massive 186,000 square foot multi-story store at 44th and Regal at Spokane’s outer edge. It was a large project considering the similar developments that had taken place nearby in recent years (Shopko and Albertson’s come to mind) but fascinatingly, the store would have been a first for even Walmart. It would have been smartly-designed to serve what the conglomerate called the neighborhood’s more “upscale” clientele, incorporating design features that few Walmart stores incorporate: windows, streetfront retail, structured and rooftop parking, and the simple addition of building it up to the street.

Understandably, the proposal attracted massive opposition driven by concerns about traffic, crime, property values, and the wholesale effect of adding a mega-store to one of Spokane’s least-developed neighborhoods. 600 people showed up to a traffic planning meeting at the Ferris High School auditorium, where a vocal majority were opposed to the proposal and many chose to direct their anger at representatives seated on-stage. Of course, there was no resolution until the next year, when officials announced that Walmart had abandoned the project, ostensibly due to “interference” from the nearby radio towers on its computer and radio equipment.

But why was the opposition so sharp? Why could Walmart not build, when Target now has a store under construction not far from the 44th and Regal site–especially when the Target being developed is a “prototype,” no-frills store that is not built to the street, features no design and architectural embellishments, and features a 700-vehicle surface lot devoted to the temporary storage of cars?

The answer lies in two dichotomous effects which I will call the Walmart Effect and the Target Effect.

The Walmart Effect refers to a neighborhood’s and an individual’s tendency to oppose Walmart at all costs. Part of this arises from Walmart’s labor practices. The company is well-known for refusing to provide healthcare coverage for its employees and for cutting employees to part-time in order to wiggle its way out of providing healthcare for them. Part of this arises from the well-documented effect that Walmart has on local communities. Walmart, as the poster-child for big-box development, increases crime, decreases neighborhood vitality, decreases property values, increases blight, and overall harms the communities in which it locates.

But here’s the thing: In general, all big-box retailers cause increase crime, decrease neighborhood vitality, decrease property values, increase blight, and harm the communities in which they locate. It’s not limited to Walmart. Walmart simply receives the brunt of the blame because it is the poster-child for big-box development.

Which brings us to the Target Effect. This counter-effect arises as a direct result of disdain for Walmart. People like Target because they think it provide a more upscale product than Walmart (it doesn’t), because it benefits communities (it doesn’t), because it is more willing to provide architectural and design changes (it isn’t), and because it provides better compensation and healthcare to its employees (it doesn’t). Target is no better than Walmart, but receives less opposition simply because it isn’t Walmart.

As such, the South Hill is poised to gain a true big-box store in Target when Walmart, by contrast, was more than willing to work with the neighborhood on a more civically-minded, urban-designed store. This would have set a crucial precedent for other stores interested in locating in the area. Work with the neighborhood or fail. Period.

Paradoxical (and theoretical) Conclusion: If the proposed-in-2006 Walmart had been built, then South Regal and the Southgate District might just look today more like Kendall Yards than Northpointe. Or at least, its development plan might look more like Kendall Yards than Northpointe, or perhaps an amalgamation of the two. Really. If it had been built, developers would be less able to compromise with the neighborhood. The Target site would have been developed in a more urban-designed fashion with buildings up to the street and structured or underground parking. Housing might have even been in the mix. And we just might have seen a neighborhood designed not just for profit, but with at least one foot in the figurative door of new urbanism. Shame it couldn’t have happened differently.

Do you agree? Do you think that the more carefully-designed Walmart store could have served as a model for other retailers locating in the Southgate District? What about the Target Effect and the Walmart Effect? Are they fair descriptions? Share your thoughts on this story by commenting, tweeting, posting, and hashtagging away!