Arrow-right Camera


Sta Plaza Just The Spot For Artifacts

Mon., Oct. 16, 1995

Cheney Cowles Museum wants to move parts of its Native American artifacts collection to downtown in order to gain public exposure.

A New York consultant says the archive is among the finest in the world.

But hardly anybody knows about it, as the museum lacks space in Browne’s Addition to put the prized collection on display.

Well, here’s a flash: Thousands of square feet of prime space are just gathering dust in a spanking-new, public building on the most conspicuous corner in Spokane. The $21-million public building stands half empty.

The operators are practically begging to give room away to the right user. You might even pick it up free. It’s already bought and paid for by the taxpayers.

I’m talking, of course, about the Spokane Transit Authority’s new downtown bus center - The Plaza.

Signs in the cavernous main-floor and skywalk-level rotundas - both deserted and silent as tombs - advertise space for events and entertainment, activity and display. What better place for a world-class exhibit?

On this highly visible corner, there’s no way the public could avoid a gander at what the museum has to offer inside.

Transit riders would then have a reason to come in, look around, rub elbows with the upper crust, pick up a little culture. As it stands now, there’s no reason to come in, and hardly anybody does. It’s high time the center got a life.

The exorbitantly costly structure was sold to the taxpayers partly on the basis that the space now standing idle would be filled with attractions - a vital and exciting community activities center.

The museum, at least, would be a start.

These two public service entities need each other. One has no money and no space; the other, too much of both.

“Isn’t that a beautiful building the STA has erected on Wall Street?” writes C. F. Brenton of Spokane. “It is a fine addition to the aesthetics of Spokane, and we can be proud of its appearance. However, it has no utility - serves no purpose but to look pretty.

“We were told they would get the buses off the street. But in this they have failed utterly, leaving that expensive building standing there serving no purpose.

“The moral of this story,” he concluded, “is that no government entity should be allowed to have any money beyond its immediate needs.”

I couldn’t agree more with the moral of the story, but the writer and countless other critics are mistaken about STA explicitly stating that this center would get buses off the street.

It was STA’s other proposal its first plan - that would have gotten buses off the street.

That plan called for a bus turnaround and staging area on the east periphery of downtown - not the core. That was the plan recommended by a consulting firm hired by STA at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars. And that plan was scrapped by the transit poo-bahs in favor of building a mixed-use tower at the present site.

But these geniuses bought and leveled the site without locking in the developer, who backed out and left taxpayers with a big hole in the ground. Then to cover their behinds, transit bigshots pulled a bait and switch, substituting a two-story bus depot for a 21-story skyscraper. And they continued to allow taxpayers to think that this would get buses off the streets. It doesn’t. It couldn’t.

These days the buses just park between runs outside the core, like they always could have - if the arrogant public servants who run the transit authority like they own it had ever really wanted to give downtown back to the people.

So readers continue complaining that the buses park at the sidewalk, instead of inside as promised. But they are mistaken. The public transit bigshots didn’t outright lie. They just pulled a fast one.

But Brenton is right about one thing - this $21-million monument to mismanagement “serves no purpose but to look pretty.”

Two months ago, this column complimented architect Ron Tan on The Plaza design, and the clean-up crew for keeping the sidewalks free of cigarette butts. But reader Don Moore argues a thick pall of cigarette smoke is worse than the butts. He would like sections of the sidewalks to be posted as “No Smoking” corridors. And the same for the Lilac Parade route. I don’t know about this.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

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

Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

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

Tags: column

Click here to comment on this story »