The city of Spokane has awarded a contract for development of its long-awaited $598,000 Division Street gateway project, says Jan Quintrall, director of business and development services for the city.
Bacon Concrete Inc., of Colbert, Wash. was awarded the contract for the project. Greg Bacon, the company’s owner, says work is slated to begin this spring and should wrap up in two to three months.
The city also contracted with SPVV Landscape Architects, of Spokane, for the landscape design, and Trindera Engineering, also of Spokane, for the electrical engineering of the streetlights, Quintrall says.
The beautification project involves landscaping, adding traffic barriers, and installing artwork in five key areas around Division Street and Interstate 90 to create a more welcoming gateway area for those entering Spokane from the highway.
The gateway project, which is being funded with parking meter money and with funds from land the city leases for parking under I-90, has been in the works for more than seven years, Quintrall says.
“We’ve been talking about this since Dennis Hession was mayor,” she says.
Julie Neff, an associate planner with the city, says the theme for the gateway project is the Spokane River. The project includes work at two areas south of I-90 and three to the north.
A traffic divider located at the base of an eastbound I-90 off-ramp at Division will undergo an overhaul. The centerpiece of the triangle will be a statue of a spear fisherman, created by Colville, Wash., artist Virgil “Smoker” Marchand, Neff says.
“He also did the art in Huntington Park,” Neff says.
Along with the statue will be some native plants, Neff says, including Ponderosa pine, and some fish sculptures. The city decided against using a fountain, she says, because it would require more maintenance.
“The plantings themselves simulate water,” she says.
All the nonplanted areas beyond the curb will have crushed basalt as a ground cover, Neff says. The basalt theme will be continued throughout the five areas and in the berms and walls, she says.
The second improvement area, east of the triangle across Division, will include a basalt wall, accent plants, and Douglas fir trees in addition to the current traffic signals there.
Quintrall says “Welcome to Spokane” signage that currently sits in that area will be replaced with scenic paintings.
A triangular area just north of I-90, between the northbound Division Street off-ramp and the freeway, will be planted with screen plants such as conifers and other low plants, and also will include some basalt boulders. The current barriers there will be replaced with a 20-inch curb, Neff says.
Also slated for plantings is a section of sidewalk that curves around in front of Dick’s Hamburgers, located at the southeast corner of Third Avenue and Division Street. It will feature the same screen plantings as the northbound off-ramp triangle, near the off ramp.
Around the corner, that area will have trees and some low plantings, as well as a low basalt wall with a short wrought-iron fence on top. The city is hoping the barriers will help cut down on panhandling, which creates a negative image and is a safety issue, Neff says.
“We looked hard for ways to discourage panhandling,” she says.
The stretch directly across Division Street, on the west side of the arterial from a U-Haul lot to the Third Avenue intersection, will have the same trees as the fourth zone. It’ll also be updated with a new 8-foot to 10-foot sidewalk, as well as a wrought-iron fence to replace the existing chain link fence and a pedestrian barrier between the sidewalk and road.
Quintrall says that, beyond aesthetics, the city is looking to improve safety with the project.
“There’s lots of foot traffic walking from the hospitals to that Starbucks (near Division and Third),” she says. “These will be huge improvements; hopefully it’ll be enough for people to walk to and from the hospitals safely.”
Neff says that the city placed a priority on working with the businesses along the gateway. The businesses are Dick’s Hamburgers, located at 10 E. Third; an outlet of Phoenix-based U-Haul International Inc., operating under the name of U-Haul Moving & Storage of Midtown, at 21 E. Third; and an outlet of Clayton, Mo.-based Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co., at 3 W. Third. Neff says the city plans to leave the businesses’ existing signage in place and visible.
“We worked hard to maintain visuals,” she says.
Quintrall says that before construction could begin, the zones had to be cleaned up, which the city also paid for with the lease money from the parking lots under the freeway.
“We wanted to show we could clean it up and show we could take care of it, rather than spend a bunch of money on something we can’t take care of,” she says.
Also in the works is development of a triangle at the intersection of Division Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard, which is being spearheaded by the Spokane Public Facilities District, Quintrall says.
“We’re kind of starting on both ends and working our way in,” she says.
Kevin Twohig, CEO of the PFD, says that organization has wanted to do something about the triangle for a long time.
“It’s not a pleasant greeting to our Convention Center and U-District,” he says.
The design for that $500,000 project is underway, also with SPVV Landscape Architects, Twohig says. The district board has agreed to fund $200,000 for the project’s centerpiece, which will depict a red band trout leaping out of a river, Twohig says.
He says he hopes the district will know in the next month or so whether it can raise the rest of the funds from others.
“It’s one of those things when as soon as we have the money, we’ll do it,” Twohig says.
The city also has worked with the Downtown Spokane Partnership, the Spokane Arts Fund, and the mayor’s office on its portion of the project, Quintrall says.
“Of any of the projects we pulled off last year, this has probably been the most collaborative,” she says.
Neff says the city also received assistance from the state transportation department.
“We had to get variances for the streetlights and trees near the curbs,” she says. “They helped us with those decorative variances.”
Also involved in the project were the owners of the businesses around the project areas, Quintrall says. The Spokane Tribe of Indians was involved with developing the art for the project, as was the Spokane Garden Club, which raised the funds for the original “Welcome to Spokane” sign.
“We’ll be putting a plaque there talking about their contribution,” Quintrall says. “This project feels more owned by the community than any we’ve ever done.”
Quintrall says the project is something she’s personally passionate about, because when she first came to Spokane in 1998, she noticed how uninviting the gateways were.
“You come down the hill on I-90 and see this lovely city sitting in a green bowl,” she says. “And then you exit off and it’s like, yuck. It’s like having a beautiful house and your front door is made of barbed wire and duct tape.”
Neff says she believes the project has opened new doors between the city and the state transportation department.
“I think it’s helped us break some new ground,” she says. “It’s opened up communication between WSDOT and the city on how to overcome challenges.”
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