Coeur dAlene developer Marshall Chesrown has hired Design Workshop Inc., a trend-setting Denver-based firm that specializes in urban planning and landscape architecture, to create a master plan for his planned development at the former Summit development site here.
Chesrown says he plans to unveil the master plan for the project on June 16 at an invitation-only event in Spokane and then show it to the public the next day.
Except for a little bit of tweaking, its done, Chesrown says. I couldnt be happier with it.
Todd Johnson, a partner in 35-year-old Design Workshop, says he can+t release many specifics about the master plan, but contends it will have a profound economic and social effect on Spokane.
We value the center of a city, Johnson says. We think this project has the potential to bring people back to downtown. Our company specializes in reconnecting these types of sites to the assets of a city.
Chesrowns project, on 90 vacant acres above the north bank of the Spokane River west of Monroe, will result in an influx of 2,000 or more residents who will live near Spokanes heart, Johnson says. He says that Spokanes downtown is largely empty after 6 p.m. each day, but bringing so many new residents so close to the downtown will bring new energy and economic opportunities to the city.
Johnson predicts that the project will have a $1 billion impact on Spokane+s economy. Chesrown has a similar view and says the investment in the development alone will be at least a half billion dollars.
Design Workshop has been planning a mixed-use development that would include an estimated 1,000 residences and roughly 1.5 million square feet of commercial space.
The project also will have a public market-which would be similar to the famed Pike Place Market, in Seattle, but on a smaller scale-and a viewing plaza, Johnson says.
Steve McNutt, chairman of the Spokane Parks Departments Riverfront Park Committee, says that the public market and plaza would go into the city-owned Veterans Park, which is just east of the Summit development site. McNutt says Chesrown also is suggesting having in his development a public plaza and a stop on the citys gondola ride, which picks up riders in Riverfront Park, carries them over the Spokane River, and drops them back off at the park.
Its really important to connect our project to the downtown and create a destination, he says. Were going to open it all up with a lot public space and enhance the Centennial Trail.
Johnson says the master plan for Chesrowns property will incorporate some of the elements that Design Workshop has used in award-winning projects in Phoenix, Denver, and Las Vegas that were developed near rivers or railroad yards. The Summit site, of course, is near a river and on former railroad property.
Those other developments have favored an urban-living concept, catering to professionals who live, work, and play in the downtown areas of those cities rather than in their suburbs, Johnson says.
The urban-village idea will prove that this sort of lifestyle is meaningful, and it will allow other developers in and around downtown Spokane to complete other projects, Johnson says. Portland and Denver have had similar experiences. In Las Vegas, we took the mayor to Denver and Phoenix to show them what was possible. The mayor of Las Vegas said, I want ours to look like theirs.
Chesrown enthusiastically endorses Design Workshop.
This isnt like doing a little subdivision project on a street, Chesrown says. You want to work with the best, and so far it has been an excellent choice. I am amazed by their attention to detail and the speed at which they work.
Chesrowns daughter lives in one of the developments Design Workshop designed in Denver, and after having seen it, Chesrown approached Design Workshop about creating something similar in Spokane.
The look and feel of the place is great, Chesrown says. I was very impressed by the architecture and development as a whole-right down to how the sidewalks look.
That Denver development, Riverfront Park (formerly the Commons), received a Charter Award in 2003 from the Congress for New Urbanism, a nonprofit Chicago-based organization that works with architects, developers, and planners across the country to encourage them to create active neighborhoods.
All across America people are moving back to the city, Chesrown asserts. In downtown Denver in the 80s, you wouldnt want to be there after dark. Now, its a thriving area. With this type of design, people (who are) 18 to 80 are living downtown. Its truly a mixed-use development.
Design Workshop says it has received more than 90 awards for its innovative designs in communities in North and South America.
New urbanism is a design concept that started about 15 years ago, and some of the strategies behind it are to reduce how long people spend in traffic, to supply affordable housing, and to rein in urban sprawl, the Congress for New Urbanisms Web site says. New urbanism also promotes open spaces, safe streets, and environmentally friendly designs.
Design Workshop uses pedestrian-friendly features, including plazas, public markets, and walking paths, in many of its designs. One of the more unusual design features in its 1,000-resident-plus Phoenix development is an outdoor walkway that connects residences to retail shops and restaurants. It uses a canopy and water feature that sprays a fine mist of water on people to keep them cool as they walk in the oppressive summer heat, Johnson says.
The transportation network is an important feature in any development, Johnson says. Its ideal to have both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The success of retailers is at the ground level, and they need to have lots of activity.
Other of Design Workshops projects have garnered national awards, including an award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the firm+s work on the Clark County Wetlands, outside of Las Vegas, the firm says. Design Workshops planning efforts helped restore grassy wetlands after they had been damaged by erosion and wastewater.
Spotlighting the river
The Spokane River will be the star of the project here, Johnson says.
The Spokane River and the cataracts are extraordinary, Johnson says. We want to take advantage of that dramatic scenery and the Centennial Trail, which is an outstanding feature to have.
Chesrown says the residential portion of the project likely will include apartments, condominiums, and town homes, although the size and prices of those residences hadnt been determined yet.
While Design Workshop created the master plan, Chesrown says hes interviewing award-winning architectural firms from across the country to design the buildings in his development.
Johnson says there still are issues to work out with the city of Spokane, although he declines to elaborate about them. He does say some of roads on the site need to be improved or moved.
Chesrown has approached the city of Spokane about occupying space in Veterans Park, but no formal request has been made, McNutt says. He says Chesrown has proposed realigning Bridge Avenue east of Monroe from the development site to connect with a future road that would run through his development west of Monroe Street. That realignment would shift Bridge slightly to the north.
The property was formerly called the Summit site, a name given it by former owner Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Co., of Spokane, but Johnson says it will be renamed to reflect the history of Spokane and people who+ve used the Spokane River. The new name wont be released until Chesrown unveils the project next month.
Chesrown bought the property in early January at an auction in Metropolitans bankruptcy case for $12.8 million. It extends west from Monroe Street along the north bank of the river to Summit Boulevard, which parallels a northward bend in the river.
A development site that includes 90 acres of vacant land alongside a free-flowing river in the heart of a city is rare today, Johnson says.
The first time I saw the Spokane River, I said, This is an amazing set of circumstances, Johnson says. To have 90 contiguous acres of land poised on a bluff over a river is really unique. You dont see anything like it anywhere in the country.
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