Spokane Journal of Business

Massive Riverfront Park plan begins to take shape

Construction slated to start after Labor Day weekend

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The Spokane Park Board and city staff say they will move forward at a brisk pace on planning for the planned $64.3 million Riverfront Park renovation, with sights set on breaking ground on improvements after Labor Day weekend 2015. 

Construction work is expected to last from fall 2015 to spring 2019, says Randy Cameron, Spokane Park Board president. 

Spokane voters emphatically voted to approve the bond to revitalize Riverfront Park in the recent election, and now the work begins on what’s next in the big undertaking, Cameron told Spokane Park Board members at a Nov. 13 study session.  

“It’s taken a ton of work to get to this point, and it’s going to take a ton more to get this done,” Cameron says. “It really was incredible to have the community come together. This isn’t the downtown park or the South Hill park. It’s really the region’s park.”

One of the first orders of business, Cameron says, will be to hire a development manager to work directly with city staff, the board, and four citizen oversight committees to implement the bond work. 

Newly hired Jason Conley, assistant director for Riverfront Park, was introduced to the board at the most recent study session. Conley previously served as director of safety, security and transportation for Spokane Public Schools. The park board recommended the city hire Conley after culling through nearly 40 applicants for the position. 

The oversight committees, which will guide the revitalization of Riverfront Park, include a general project steering committee, a public art committee, and a family use and accessibility committee, Cameron says. Five members of the Spokane Tribal Council, three park board members, and a city council member will make up a fourth group, the Spokane Tribal Heritage committee. That committee will help ensure improvements to Riverfront Park, specifically Canada Island, to honor the history and legacy of the Spokane Tribe of Indians. 

The complex Riverfront Park project will involve multiple designers, consultants, subconsultants and contractors, says Juliet Sinisterra, project manager for the park’s master plan. 

Planning to complete and implement the restoration of the downtown park, which hasn’t been substantially updated since Expo ’74, probably will take up the remainder of 2014 and go well into 2015, Sinisterra says. 

The proposed plan includes relocation and upgrades to the ice rink and the Looff Carousel, complete renovation of the U.S. Pavilion, playgrounds—including a 1.5-acre regional playground—tree-lined pedestrian promenades, a new tour train, and new leasable shelters on Havermale Island, as well as the north bank of the park. The new park also will feature a central pathway, security upgrades, new strategic lighting, sound, and improved views.

Advance preparation includes a six-month, predesign study, a stormwater management plan, a habitat management plan, and a soils testing and traffic study, she says. During the next six months, studies will be completed on parking and pedestrians, power, and lighting concepts, as well as a market analysis for the business plan. 

Sinisterra says expanding the park’s infrastructure and repair or replacement of bridges are also high on the list of priorities since both form the basis of accessible, safe paths. 

“We’re launching this technical predesign study to make sure all the research is done, that we have all the information, and that there are no big surprises when we finalize the business plan and start construction,” Sinisterra says.” Once that’s complete we’ll start accepting bids for design, depending on the delivery method that is chosen.”

The park board will have a choice of project delivery systems, which include a design-build, design-bid-build, or general contractor/construction manager process.  

In the design-build process, the architect and general contractor collaborate on a project from the start. In the design-bid-build method, the design team draws up the plans for the entire project, and construction companies then bid on the project. Under the GCCM method, the general contractor participates as an adviser during the design process. 

Cameron says different delivery systems will probably be appropriate for specific parts of the project. 

“I believe a couple of the projects need to be design-build, such as the leasable shelters along the river,” he says. “I think it gives the architect and designers an opportunity to get creative.” 

Cameron says one of the park board’s biggest considerations is to have as many local firms as possible participating in the design and construction of the park. 

Another consideration, says Sinisterra, is keeping the park operating and usable during the process. 

“And we want to bring in as much local talent as possible. We are still compiling information on delivery methods but we hope to give the Park Board a recommendation, and then they will have final say on one delivery method, or delivery methods, for the final project.” Sinisterra says it’s also important to the city and the park board that the community is kept abreast of what’s happening, and involved in the process. 

“People are very curious to know what’s happening. The beginning stages are incredibly important for having a successful project, and we need to be diligent in how we approach this,” she says.  

Design for specific projects of the overall revitalization will begin over the summer, she says. 

The various oversight committees will help keep citizens involved, but the city also may hold public forums on various components like lighting and transportation, she adds. 

The public art committee will be one of the first to issue requests for proposals, Sinisterra says, for visual arts including sculptures for a planned sculpture walk. The city will be working with the Spokane Arts Commission and the Spokane Arts Fund on the undertaking. Sinisterra says she expects the committee to get hundreds of artists submitting proposals. 

“Public art will happen early,” she says. “We’ll narrow down a list and have them selected by June.”

“We have a million things to do,” says Sinisterra, summing up the process.

Judith  Spitzer
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Reporter Judith Spitzer covers technology, mining, agriculture, and wood products for the Journal. A vintage-obsessed antique collector in her off hours, Judith worked as a journalist in Colorado and Oregon before joining the Journal.

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