What millennials want–and why Spokane should cater to them

Walkability can help make or break a city as a vital, energetic, and vibrant place to live, according to the millennials that Spokane needs to attract. So why do we keep investing in policies created by Baby Boomers? (PHOTO: BethesdaNow.com)

We’re always saying that in order to succeed, Spokane needs to take time and energy to attract a key demographic: young, urban professionals. But what does it take to do that?

Millennials are markedly different from their parents in a number of ways, from dress to music to cultural attitudes. But perhaps most tellingly, millennials desire different things from their homes. Where the Baby Boomers originally valued safe, affordable homes in the suburbs, research reveals that more and more millennials wish to live in the type of mixed-use communities that Spokane needs to succeed. According to new data reported by The Atlantic CityLab, these young people are primarily concerned with four issues: walkability, good schools and parks, excellent public transportation, and new technology.

Sound familiar? We’ve been advocating these causes for months.

Unfortunately, it seems that Spokane currently caters more toward Baby Boomers than to Millennials. Our development policies favor large, suburban tracts on the urban fringe, as opposed to live-work communities like Kendall Yards. Public transportation and bicyclists constantly deal with the scorn of those who believe more money should be spent on roads. And while our schools continue to improve, they are not making the type of calculated investments needed to take area education to the next level.

So let’s invest. Let’s build a streetcar, a trolley, a light rail. Let’s improve our bike lanes, our crosswalks, our pedestrian trails. Let’s incentivize infill, and work with developers to craft creative plans for increasing density. Let’s make sure our schools have the proper tools to teach, from smaller class sizes to new curricula and learning methodologies. Let’s bring entrepreneurship and innovation to the high schools, the middle schools, and even the elementary schools, encouraging students and fostering a culture of creativity. Let’s improve Riverfront Park, adding new features for accessibility and new community gathering places under the Pavilion. Let’s create a city-wide fiber-to-the-home initiative, bolstered by the local business community. These investments have tangible returns and have proven to show real-world results. With them, we could become the number one city in the country for millennials. Seriously. Let’s take some time to make this happen.

Investment first. Then returns. That should be the strategy moving forward.

What do you think? What could the Spokane area be doing to attract more millennials? How do you think our policies line up with the perspectives of millennials? How could we become the #1 city in America for millennials? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, in the comments below, or in person. We love to hear from you.

An Update on Riverfront Park’s U.S. Pavilion

A possible rendering of Riverfront Park's iconic U.S. Pavilion, part of the legacy of Expo 74, with a new high-tech domed structure underneath the cables. (PHOTO: Olson Kundig Architects/Spokane Journal of Business)
A possible rendering of Riverfront Park’s iconic U.S. Pavilion, part of the legacy of Expo 74, with a new high-tech domed structure underneath the cables. (PHOTO: Olson Kundig Architects/Spokane Journal of Business)

New renderings were unveiled Friday illustrating a possible future for Riverfront Park. Under this scenario, the U.S. Pavilion, the most iconic piece of the legacy of Spokane’s World’s Fair in 1974, would be extensively remodeled with a new night-lit superstructure underneath the cables. This is in stark contrast to the last plan we heard, which would have recovered the entire pavilion with a new type of durable teflon-coated fiberglass.

Also released were images of a potential new building for the Looff Carousel (which nicely matches the style Fountain Cafe, built in 2013, while more than doubling the square footage) and for a world-class climbing gym that has been proposed by a private developer for the North Bank. It’s anticipated that a bond measure will be brought to voters in November to pay for these improvements.

We won’t lie: the Riverfront Park plans, combined with Walt Worthy’s Convention Center Hotel and the remodeling of the Bennett Block and the former Huppin’s Building, promise to do more for Spokane than anyone realizes. The next few years are set to bring a lot of positive change to downtown, and we’re so excited to be sharing it with you.

View more photos after the break.

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Idea #9: Teen/Youth Center

This teen center was reconstructed from an old Pacific Gas & Electric facility in Berkeley, CA and built to LEED Platinum standards. (PHOTO: GreenSource Magazine)

Downtown Spokane desperately needs to solve its “disengaged youth” problem. (Naturally, others might, not-so-respectfully, call it a “street kid” problem.) It has tried playing classical music to try to deter potential congregants. It has tried using a high-pitched “mosquito” to do likewise. But perhaps deterrence is the wrong type of medicine.

Perhaps we need to take a more decisive and solutions-based approach to this problem. Perhaps we need something like a teen/youth center downtown for 13-22 year olds. Currently, there are few such facilities that cater to youth downtown. If we were able to re-route kids off of the streets and into more positive pursuits, then perhaps we could also have a strong chance at reversing the cycle of poverty that plagues many of these children. Especially if such a center offered homework assistance and skills development programs, like word processing clinics and the like. Ideally, it would bring together services from various nonprofit groups under one roof, and while it need not be as fancy as the YMCA-PG&E facility shown above, it could make a big difference and send a positive message to our city’s youth.

Idea #7: Public Squares

Seattle’s Westlake Park offers a signature gathering place for the city’s residents, tourists, and businesspeople. (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)

Spokane should invest in a public downtown gathering place, a public square for its people. Seattle has Westlake Park, shown above. San Francisco has Union Square, below the fold. We believe that a public square should be a priority for downtown as it continues to work to cast off the seedy image of its past.
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