Business and civic leaders in and around Hillyard deserve kudos for continued work to improve a northeastern Spokane neighborhood rich in railroad and industrial history, but economically downtrodden and underdeveloped for decades.
Active business owners and residents, with help from city leaders, already have made strides in improving curb appeal along Market Street in recent years, and the Greater Hillyard Business Association has kept conversations active and engaging as to how to continue to improve the neighborhood.
Now, work will begin in earnest on planning for rehabilitation and redevelopment of an 800-acre portion of Hillyard. Known as The Yard, the site consists of about 500 acres of industrial property and 300 acres of residential property located north of Garland Avenue and east of Market.
The biggest potential for redevelopment lies in the 500 acres that at one time was home to an industrial center built around a freight rail yard. Steam engine manufacturing, maintenance, and repair facilities operated on the site many years ago. The BNSF Railway system remains active and runs through that system, but much of the site has sat dormant since the 1960s.
An extensive amount of environmental cleanup is needed at The Yard before it can be redeveloped. To that end, the city of Spokane has secured a $200,000 Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a plan for the site, building upon two grants totaling about $130,000 the city received last year. The city also has applied for two additional grants totaling $700,000 that would go toward planning and other improvements to the site.
All of this work is expected to lead to infrastructure improvements at The Yard and identification of redevelopment potential.
While the city and its Northeast Public Development Authority have played key roles in landing grants and moving the process along, a number of other groups are instrumental to the neighborhood’s success. In addition to the Greater Hillyard Business Association, Greater Spokane Incorporated, the Spokane Regional Health District, and a handful of Washington state agencies—Commerce, Transportation, and Ecology—all have important parts to play.
Beyond The Yard, a number of questions about Hillyard remain. Will the city be successful in setting up a Business Improvement District there to maintain infrastructure improvements already in place? What will happen with the Mann Army Reserve Center located along Market that has sat dormant for about a decade? When will the North Spokane Corridor be extended south through Hillyard; it currently ends just north of Francis Avenue—and will that change the feel of the neighborhood or be a catalyst for economic development?
Within these questions lie potential for further improvements in Hillyard. Momentum appears to be building in the neighborhood, and the hope is that this will lead to greater private investment and ultimately increased job creation and property values there. For all of this, we are both grateful and hopeful.
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