The Downtown Spokane Partnership hosted its 2023 State of Downtown celebration this week, and while there’s still more to do to improve the city’s core, it’s clear there are reasons to celebrate this year.
The question becomes, what’s next? That answer should involve a vision we should pursue with urgency and impatience, as our core already is being reimagined in ways civic leaders might not have imagined prior to the pandemic.
We’ve used this space in recent years to call for employers to return workers to the core. We stand by that call, as professionals will continue to be the lifeblood of a bustling central business district. They enhance the mix of people in the core during the day, fill restaurants at lunch, and give downtown retail activity an essential boost.
As the future of the office market remains uncertain, however, it’s become clear that downtown Spokane is being reimagined in new and exciting ways. As the Journal reports elsewhere in this issue, remodeling work is planned or underway at four prominent buildings within a four-block radius in the city’s core. Two of those projects—one at the historic Crescent Building and the other a previously reported undertaking at the Peyton Building—involve converting conventional office space into living units.
Those two separate projects, with a combined cost of $28 million, are slated to add a total of 186 living units to the core. They follow similar conversions at the old Macy’s Building—now The M Apartments—and the former James S. Black Building—now The Marjorie Apartments—among other projects elsewhere downtown.
An increase in housing in the core gives rise to the potential for an increase in demand for retail and services in the heart of the city. It will be interesting to see what follows that trend.
Of course, investment downtown has been occurring consistently for decades now, and its effects have filtered into nearby neighborhoods.
The DSP draws a circle beyond its central business district boundaries to quantify impact of development in city’s core. Including the neighboring Kendall Yards neighborhood, the North Bank, and the University District along with downtown, a total of $1.27 billion in development has occurred in the past decade or is currently underway.
And there are more reasons to be optimistic.
Next month, Spokane Transit Authority’s City Line is scheduled to launch, giving the Spokane area its first bus rapid-transit line coursing through the core, connecting it to Browne’s Addition, the U District, and East Central Spokane.
Next fall, the new sports stadium is scheduled to open on the North Bank, providing a new venue for Spokane-area high school sports and an anticipated suite of professional and semipro United Soccer League teams.
What will be the next big project? Will it involve converting surface parking lots into higher uses? Or a return of public-private partnerships into the conversation? Whatever the answer, it will require dynamic leadership mixed with an entrepreneurial spirit for all involved.
We say all of this with full acknowledgement that crime in the city’s core hasn’t dissipated, and public drug use needs to be reined in further. Also, efforts to address homelessness downtown still need to be strengthened.
But despite the challenges, it’s encouraging to see investment, enthusiasm, and further potential for Spokane’s downtown. It’s a crown jewel that should be shining brightly for our community—with an eye on making it shine brighter.
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