As part of the Downtown Plan update due this year, the City of Spokane has contracted with Nelson\Nygaard to conduct a comprehensive study of parking options and usability in downtown Spokane and the University District, evaluating at a deep level how people travel downtown, the incentives they receive or don’t receive, and potential future improvements to the user experience. The survey is now live, and we encourage readers to take it.
Last year, we heard that a developer was interested in constructing a 26-story condo tower at 230 N Division St, a former auto shop on a prominent site at the edge of the University District and the East End of downtown Spokane. The proposal seemed to be as serious as any in technical terms (planning documents featured relatively detailed architectural renderings), but unrealistic given the relative distance from the city’s central core and the not-altogether-great history of then-involved developer Lanzce Douglas.
Now, a new developer has submitted a Pre-Development Conference for a major development at that site. University Housing Partners of San Clemente, California already developed the already-popular 940 North project on Ruby. Now, the firm has proposed a six-story mixed-use project featuring five floors of housing aimed primarily at WSU Spokane and EWU Spokane students. The $20 million project would include 12,000 square feet of retail along both Spokane Falls Boulevard and Division Street, a critical factor in engaging the street level. 100 parking spots would be tucked behind the street as we suggested in our post on the original proposal for this site. And renderings (more after the break) feature significant architectural interest and color.
When the Jensen-Byrd District plan was revealed in full for the first time last week, we rightfully noted the spectacular form and scale that the plan took. At 250,000 square feet, it’s the largest downtown Spokane development in nearly a generation. And by including space well-suited for high-tech and biotech companies, it could mark a turning point in Spokane’s overall economy.
But it’s important to note also that the site plan has some significant pain-points, challenges which we expect to be resolved before the developer is granted a building permit. It’s easy to forget that once a building is built, it’s likely to remain there for at the very minimum, fifty years (well, most of the time). That’s why we need to ensure that this development is held to a high standard: the University District is intended to drive Spokane’s economy in the 21st century and beyond. To create a place fit for the next fifty-plus years, we need to do better than the current plan. Here are some concrete steps to making that happen.
1. Create a better, more inviting, and more distinct north landing for the University District Pedestrian Bridge. In the current plan, a pedestrian crossing the bridge northbound will land facing the parking garage, where it’s unclear whether there will be a clear path forward to the Jensen-Byrd Building itself. At this landing, there should be some wayfinding information, as well as other active space, such as retail on the first floor of the parking garage. Imagine an inviting cafe or coffeehouse with outdoor seating and programmable space. There should also be an easy path through the parking garage to the Jensen-Byrd. (It appears that there may be an alleyway of some kind for this purpose; how could this alley be made more inviting for pedestrians? Overhead lights? Restaurant space a la Mizuna?)
2. Develop a phased master plan for the overall site, including development for the surface parking lots included in the current site plan. There’s zero justification for the surface parking lots to remain on the site plan, given the 450-space parking garage included in the first phase. This land would be better put to use in the interim as open space or public parkland; in the future, it should be developed to support the continued growth of the University District. As of now, however, we don’t know when or whether that will happen. This planning and building approval process should include specific planning for these sites.
3. Repave the section of Main Street in front of the Jensen-Byrd Building with brick, and close it to vehicles, to create a more inviting pedestrian landscape and a plaza of sorts for events and special occasions. Even if the street is not closed to vehicles, it would be more vibrant, more interesting, and more programmable if paved with brick. Imagine Friday food truck gardens or Saturday farmers’ markets on this site. Paved with brick, this could become a huge selling point to any potential tenant of the Jensen-Byrd District development.
Overall, these three changes could go a long way toward improving the Jensen-Byrd District plan. It’s unclear what degree of flexibility to public comment the developers will have, but it’s worth a shot. Fortunately, it’s likely that design review will be required for this project. We will share information on public comment when it becomes available.
In the meantime, your best bet to offer feedback for the project is to use the comment form on the development’s website. Be sure to select “other” for the contact category so it’s directed to the right people. Perhaps we can make a difference in improving this project.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Would these improvements help improve the Jensen-Byrd District plan to make it more future-proof and vibrant? Would you approve of a better connection from the Pedestrian Bridge, given the large amount of public funding going to that project? What about brick paving for Main Ave? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments below. We love to hear from you!
Across the country, bikeshare systems are adding to the array of multimodal and diverse public transportation choices while allowing an opportunity for private companies and vendors to capture a new market. In addition, these bicycle rental and subscription services can help to build new urban spaces, diverse and innovative squares, and centers for public life. Even a simple intersection can become a “place,” if enhanced with a bike station, benches, and perhaps curb bulb-outs or other streetscape enhancements.
It’s time for Spokane to join these cities.
Imagine the potential of a bikeshare system with stations in Browne’s Addition, the University District, near Gonzaga University, on Hamilton, in the Garland District, in the South Perry, and in multiple locations downtown. Imagine the potential of being able to grab a bike downtown and ride to grab a pizza at the Elk in Browne’s Addition, then take a Spokane Transit bus home. Imagine the potential of riding from the Garland District to Kendall Yards, and never having to worry about finding a bike rack or carrying a lock. Instead, you can just drop the bike at a station.
And bikeshare would take advantage of our growing bicycle infrastructure in Spokane, including added bike lanes on Main Avenue and other area roads and streets. It could help to grow Spokane’s bicycle culture from niche to mainstream. And that’s something that could benefit us all, through a more active streetscape and a greater availability of alternative commuting options.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What do you think? Would a bikeshare system work in Spokane? Where would you like to see a station? Do you see bikeshare as a viable option for commuting, or more of an alternative for tourists and convention guests? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you!
Earlier this year, WSU Spokane awarded a contract for remodel and reuse of the Jensen-Byrd Building to a partnership of Seattle developer Wally Trace and the local office of design-build energy efficiency firm McKinstry. We knew that the partners had significant plans for the site, but now we’re getting our first look at the project.
And it’s absolutely spectacular.
Not content to simply remodel the historic Jensen-Byrd warehouse, JB Development will develop a massive, 250,000 square foot adaptive reuse of the main building and the Pacific Produce Building and construct a new 442-space parking garage, a 50,000 square foot retail and fitness center, and an 84,000 square foot mixed-use tech/biotech office building. The result will be what they are calling the Jensen-Byrd District. Aimed at tech and biotech companies, the buildings will feature the large floor plates, modern data connections, and retail amenities that large companies expect, but which don’t exist at this point in our city.
In other words, if marketed correctly, these two buildings could help Spokane land a major tech or biotech tenant. It’s a dream that’s been building for a while, with significant investment in the University District (including the Pedestrian Bridge, expected to be complete in 2018) in pursuit of attracting private companies. With the right targeted action and marketing, now we have a specific site that could accommodate those demanding tenants.
Jump after the break for more discussion and renderings.
In May, we reported on a major new mixed-use project set for construction on North Hamilton in the burgeoning Logan District. At that point, the “Hamilton Project” had just applied for a SEPA Review, the penultimate step in the process toward a building permit. Now, we understand, the project is just about ready to get underway.
The four-story mixed-use structure at 1008 N Hamilton will offer 57 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments aimed at young urban professionals, graduate students, and others interested in a University District living experience. A rooftop patio and barbecue will add to the available amenities. On the ground floor, over 17,000 square feet of retail space will be made available. One commercial unit has reportedly already been leased. Unfortunately, an excessively generous street setback may result in a more limited “urban”-style experience where people choose to access the storefronts via the parking lot, which will be located behind the building. Hopefully this grassy setback can be reduced to encourage people to commute to and from the Matilda Building by foot, bike, or transit.
Otherwise, we’re quite excited to see this project get underway, and we can’t help but notice the tremendous investment seen in the Logan District in recent years. If these projects succeed in urban form and character, there’s a potential for major disruption. There was Six on Hamilton. The Clementine Building. Gonzaga’s Boone Avenue Retail Center, or BARC. The John J. Hemmingson Center. And of course, the Hamilton Corridor Form-Based Code.
Are we witnessing the rebirth of Logan?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Are you excited for the construction of the Matilda Building, a major new mixed-use project on the Hamilton Corridor? Do you believe that this building, combined with other recent successes, will help herald a rebirth of the Logan District? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person. We love to hear from you!
In Silicon Valley, ten percent of startups hit it big. In Spokane, if we could hit half of that number, we would be doing quite well. Area startups have a good number of resources, with LaunchPad NW, McKinstry’s Spokane Innovation Center, and Startup Weekend Spokane, but still, we’re not exactly the hotbed for startups that we could be with additional capital and focus. A true startup fund, with a focus on mentorship, could be a real boon to our region’s innovation economy.
Whether it’s a single angel investor or a group of local well-off citizens, we need some people to start venture funding startups. We need additional low-cost incubator space for startups to grow. We need the infrastructure to support the next generation of tech startups, from fiber-optic internet service to a late-night coffeeshop within walking distance. With a focused effort, Spokane could become a haven for startups. It just needs to coordinate disparate groups in different areas working around different goals. It needs to coalesce around a specific, clear, and certain plan aimed at growing innovation locally and globally.
What do you think? Could startups be a path forward for Spokane? Would a startup fund, and greater capital for startups, as well as a focused effort to attract them, help to grow Spokane’s innovation economy? Shout out in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter. We love to hear from you.
A California-based developer is getting ready to start construction on a 60-unit apartment complex aimed at Gonzaga students but otherwise unaffiliated with the university. At 940 N Ruby, he will construct a five-story building with surface parking underneath residential units, a la Kennedy Apartments. A Pre-Development Conference and SEPA Review have been completed with an apparent determination of non-significance. The city’s permitting database has not yet been updated with appropriate approval documents, but with SEPA listed as “Closed,” it appears that this project is ready to get going.
While the project won’t be quite as pedestrian-friendly as the Kennedy Apartments (there will be a surface parking lot between the building and Ruby Street), five-story construction should add some much-needed density along this particular stretch of the Division/Ruby corridor. Project plans are available on the city’s Online Permit System. Combined with the Ruby Suites (former Burgan’s Block), Kennedy, and other Gonzaga-Downtown housing, this area has in seven short years increased its housing supply by orders of magnitude. Especially when you consider that 60 units here will probably house around 200 students.
No word on whether this is the 60-unit housing development KXLY reported as planned for “between the University District and downtown.” Anyone have any idea?
What do you think? Are you excited about the addition of new residential units on the Division/Ruby corridor? Are you excited about infill possibilities between Division and Ruby? What’s next for this area? Share your thoughts in our comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.
Spokane local news has a history of making off-the-cuff announcements without much substantiation or explanation. However, we were still pretty surprised to hear their latest scoop: 150 housing units downtown. In their latest story about downtown development, they dropped this bombshell:
We’ve also received word construction will begin next month on a 60-unit apartment complex set between the University District and downtown. A different 90-unit complex is expected to be built downtown starting in January 2015.
Who’ll be building these units? And where? How? When? Who’s the contractor? The architect? KXLY’s story leaves us with little new information.
We think we’ve nailed down the 60-unit complex “between the University District and downtown,” and though their story makes it seem like a project for the East End/West Main area, all indications are that it will be located on Ruby (near Chipotle). But we’ll bring you more on that tomorrow.
The big news is the 90-unit development set “to be built downtown starting in January 2015.” Who are KXLY’s sources? What are they hearing? It could be anywhere, but considering the scale of some of the most recent major downtown apartment proposals, it could be as significant as 153 S Wall, a major downtown development by Prium Companies which was scuttled during the financial crisis but which originally sought to build 96 units. Time will tell, and we’ll keep you posted.
What do you think? Are you excited for the addition of 150 units to the downtown or North Bank areas? Do you have any more information on either the 60-unit or the 90-unit projects set to start construction soon? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in person. We love to hear from you.
Here’s a bold idea that might not attract too much popular support but should be considered as part of a broader package of ideas that would revitalize downtown Spokane and enhance educational opportunities and outcomes in our state. What if Washington State University moved a significant number of its graduate-level programs to its Spokane campus in the University District? This would be a bold move requiring a massive build-out on the Riverpoint campus, but it would also solve one of the bigger issues facing our city addressed in Idea #12; namely, a lack of quality graduate-level programs, especially in the sciences, engineering, and other STEM fields.
This deficit of graduate education might be a result of having such a large research institution located “nearby,” but not actually within our city limits. Pullman is nearly 75 miles away, which results in challenges for both the institution and the city in educating and retaining young urban professionals in order to attract attention from large companies looking to relocate.
Under this scenario, WSU Pullman would become primarily and undergradate-focused institution with some research being performed by professors and students of the remaining graduate programs, but also new and ground-breaking opportunities for undergraduate research in STEM fields. A focus on teaching would heighten the level of education offered by the institution and better educate undergraduates for a twenty-first century global economy. WSU Spokane, meanwhile, would expand into a full-service graduate student campus, meeting the needs of its students through high-quality labs and field work and a wealth of internship and externship opportunities in the local community. Perhaps a commuter rail service could connect the two campuses in order to drive synergies between the two offered products.
Of course, I don’t expect WSU Pullman to go undergraduate-only anytime soon, and I don’t expect WSU to move all graduate programs to Spokane. But I do think it raises an interesting question. How can WSU Spokane better provide graduate education in STEM fields to the region? Is it time for major STEM programs like computer engineering to be relocated to the Spokane campus? How can our statewide higher education system meet the needs of a globalizing twenty-first century economy? These are questions the community needs to be asking as it develops a vision for the University District and for the city moving forward.