February 13, 1995 in City

Watch For Traffic While Walking On `Pedestrian’ Mall

Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Revie
 

Will downtown Spokane’s new mall on Wall, which is now expected to open in mid-March, be just for foot traffic and slowmoving rubber-tired trolleys as first announced?

Or will strollers have to share the twoblock concourse with cars and trucks, as has lately been rumored?

The answer to both questions is, yes.

Half the mall will be restricted to pedestrians and trolleys. The other half will be open to all vehicles.

This is the last word from city officials. It’s news to me. And some people I know are dazed and dumbfounded by it.

The brick-paved street in the first block south of Riverfront Park on Wall - between Spokane Falls Boulevard and Main - may have the appearance of a pedestrian mall. But that’s a mirage.

That block is open to traffic again. So watch your step, or you might get flattened by a car or a truck, as Marie Reid and her friends almost did.

“Cars just zip right through there,” she complains. “That’s dangerous. And it’s not fair.

“So I’m beefing,” she informed me. “My friends and I want to use downtown. We want to use this pedestrian mall.

“This is a pedestrian mall, isn’t it?” she asked.

I thought it was, and I told her so. I bet the vast majority of readers think so, too.

Well, we’re half right, city public works manager Dave Mandyke told me.

The next block south on Wall - between Main and Riverside - is going to be a true trolley-pedestrian mall.

Well, almost, except when delivery vehicles block each other off in the alleys. Then they can come out through the mall and exit onto Riverside.

In this block, businesses - The Crescent Court, Sterling Savings, Washington Mutual, etc. - don’t want regular vehicular traffic.

Originally, Mandyke confirms, the plan was to make both blocks a pedestrian mall, which is how the public misconception got started. City Hall favored dedicating the whole strip to pedestrians.

But businesses in the two blocks are major funders of the project, which is another of those public-private joint ventures that always seem to stir such controversy. The collaborators in this one include city government, the regional Spokane Transit Authority, and property owners fronting on the mall.

Anyway, in the first block south of the park, the Bon Marche, Olive Garden, Saad’s Shoe Repair and others fiercely oppose curtailing vehicle traffic. “And, believe me,” says Mandyke, “they are very very clear on this.”

So much so, they refused to share any cost of the trolley-mall project unless it was traffic as usual.

“Having said that,” said Mandyke, “use of that block will not be conducive to traffic flow.” Not with slow-moving trolleys clogging the streets every few minutes as they come through dropping off and picking up passengers.

“It’ll evolve,” Mandyke says of the mall. “Function will dictate what happens.”

Far be it for me to suggest how merchants and property owners ought to treat people they want to come downtown and be their customers.

But here’s something that loyal downtown shoppers and others who care about the core might want to consider. If this latest halfway approach to creating a mall on Wall leaves a lot to be desired, maybe those in charge should hear about it.

If not, then at least people know now what’s happening, and who’s responsible.

“Micron Technology Inc. will expand in Boise or Nampa,” proclaims business oracle Paul Beebe of the Idaho Statesman in Boise. “None of the other 11 communities vying for its new factory has a chance.”

Micron recently canceled a three-day tour of Spokane and Kootenai counties that had been arranged this week. Officials cited a scheduling conflict.

But they’re still on for a public meeting Thursday in Post Falls.

Micron and area business recruiters insist none of this constitutes a snub. But Beebe knows better.

“Micron has maneuvered itself into a box with only one exit,” claims the columnist. “By expanding somewhere else, Micron risks alienating the Legislature and losing what it really wants - an engineering school at Boise State University.”

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The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review


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