Idea #6: Popup Art Galleries

Spokane has its share of vacant and abandoned buildings. Fortunately, it also has a wealth of artists and designers. What happens when you put the two together? Enter a plan for popup storefront art galleries highlighted in last week’s Inlander. The idea is to develop “a corridor that carries visitors from one lively part of town to another by getting art into…empty storefronts on First Avenue.” Terrain co-founder Ginger Ewing and Laboratory owner Alan Chatham are spearheading this plan, which they believe will help make the pedestrian experience in downtown Spokane much more pleasant and enjoyable–and perhaps even safer. We just hope that it will get an airing from building owners.

The full article, including more of the excellent artwork featured above by Collin Hayes, is available here at the Inlander.

If It Had Happened, Part 1: 153 South Wall

PHOTO: Prium Companies

This Thursday we bring you Week 1 of a multi-week series focused on projects that would have happened had the economy not crashed. Many of the projects that we will profile were ongoing at the same time as each other, and as such, something had to give. There couldn’t be ten new major downtown high-rises at once, could there?

Indeed, there couldn’t.

Today we feature 153 South Wall, a project which was originally proposed in July of 2006 during the height of the downtown residential boom. The lot, purchased by Prium Companies of Tacoma for $750,000, would have been developed into 126 condominiums, with about seven floors of parking atop two floors of street front retail. In June of 2007, the project was shelved due to high construction costs. The lot was apparently sold to Inland Northwest Health Systems in July of 2009, although the site is still being used primarily as a parking lot.

Of course, this is exactly the type of infill project that Spokane so desperately needs, and we wish that it could have come to fruition.

To read more on 153 S. Wall, visit the Spokesman here or Prium Companies here. You can also see the Inlander here for a good article on the circumstances surrounding its shelving.

Idea #5: Municipal Gigabit Fiber

More than anything else, it’s been said that in order to build a greater sense of vitality in the city, Spokane needs to attract young, urban professionals. But how do we attract the jobs in technology, high-tech manufacturing, and  biomedical development which they require? Perhaps with something like gigabit Internet. You know, that startlingly fast network that Google is building out in Kansas City (and now Austin, TX and Provo, UT)? Spokane should attempt to build something similar for consumers and businesses alike.

Spokane certainly has the technological know-how. It developed the first major municipal WiFi network, the HotZone, spanning 100 blocks of downtown. Together with nonprofit and private partners, it built out the Terabyte Triangle, an innovative technology cluster once called “forward-looking” and “cutting-edge.”

If Spokane wants to move forward, it should look at building out or contracting with a partner to build out a gigabit internet network. I mean, just look at Seattle’s Gigabit Squared project. (Although that project has apparently since died, it represented a forward-looking vision for the city.) It’s time we developed something similar.

Downtown Spokane Partnership Proposes to Gut Library, Insert Retail

In today’s list of weird news, it looks like the Downtown Spokane Partnership is in very early discussions about the possibility of selling off and moving downtown’s Public Library in attempt to create more retail space. The news broke in the Inlander on Saturday, and the proposal is already drawing an extremely negative response on social media.

Downtown Spokane Partnership President Mark Richard says that the downtown area has had to turn down major national retailers due to the dearth of available large-scale commercial/retail real estate. “They’ve had to turn down H&M and other larger prospects downtown because we don’t have the space to provide them,” Richard said to the Inlander. River Park Square is indeed thriving, but so is the library; according to the spokesman of the Spokane Public Library, Eva Silverstone, 22,000 people per month use the downtown branch, with usage up year-over-year. Contrary to popular reports, the library is not fading, growing ever more popular with each passing month.

Still, downtown needs more retail space, and there are few good options. Mobius, the new(er) science center located across from Nordstrom, could move into a new space as it has been struggling in its current site. But that would only open up space for maybe one large-format retailer, like H&M. Riverside, Spokane’s historical “Main Street,” could be used to open up additional retail, with connections via Post, but unless a lot of retail opens both on Post and on Riverside at once, I can’t see people opting to walk two blocks out of the way just for one store.

My vote? Go all out. Demolish (or extensively remodel) the Macy’s Building and complete the Bennett Block redevelopment project as soon as possible. Then add an 8-12 story mixed use building next door on the current Diamond Parking lot. Finally, develop Riverside as a new retail node upon completion of those projects. (How would you add significant new retail opportunities to downtown? Comment below!)

It may seem like overkill, but indications from mall leadership are to the contrary. “If I had another two blocks of street front we would [still] be full,” Bryn West, the general manager of River Park Square told the Inlander last fall.

We’ll keep covering this story as it develops.

Idea #3: World-Class Outdoor Concert Ampitheater

Spokane needs a world-class downtown concert amphitheater. Shown here is Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a 11,000-capacity bandshell located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Luckily, just such a plan is in the works for completion as a part of the Riverfront Park Master Plan. While Spokane’s venue will probably hold more like 5,000-6,000 people, we do hope that planners take cues from Chicago’s stunning, award-winning design.

Midwestern-style Restaurant to open on lower South Hill

We will focus on fresh food and local foods. We are not trying to be a fast-food restaurant.

Jeff Nordvall, co-owner of Wisconsinburger, to be located at 916 S. Hatch on Spokane’s lower South Hill. The restaurant will feature an eclectic Midwestern menu, and it’s expected to open in March.

Wisconsinburger will feature fried cheese curds and butter burgers prepared with local ingredients.

For the full article, including a map of the location, click here to visit the Spokesman.

Idea #2: Complete the Centennial Trail. For real this time.

It’s time to complete the Centennial Trail. That means that we need to fill in the gaps. And not just some of them. We should fill in all of the gaps and completely separate pedestrian and bicyclist traffic from motorists, even in Spokane proper. The resulting Class I trail would span nearly 70 miles across two states, one of the longest and most widely-used urban trails in the United States.

Former Huppin’s store to be remodeled and leased to new tenants

Without a doubt, I don’t know if we would have focused on that block without Walt Worthy building that Convention Center hotel.

Chris Batten, co-owner of the former Huppin’s property at 421 W. Main in downtown Spokane. Batten, along with business partners Bobby Brett and John Pariseau, intend to extensively remodel and lease the building to Spokane Exercise Equipment, among other tenants.

The full article, with architectural renderings, is available here at the Spokesman.

Idea #1: Green Bike Lanes

It’s time for green bike lanes to hit Spokane. While the city has been making great strides toward increased uses for pedestrians and bicyclists alike, each step forward has been marked by a half-step backwards; for example, Second Avenue was reconstructed without a bike lane, despite master planning documents stating that one was to be included. Regardless, green bike lanes would better demarcate the lane for cyclists and further reduce traffic speed.