Jim Frank grew up in Spokane’s Corbin Park neighborhood.
“You could walk places, to school, to the park. I remember walking to J.C. Penney’s with my mom for back-to-school clothes,” the Spokane developer said.
“Families lived in the neighborhood forever. If someone’s dad got a better job, the family moved to a nicer house … maybe to one of the big houses around the park.”
With those memories, a fascination with new urbanism, and a hunch that people are longing for a sense of community, the developer broke ground five years ago on MeadowWood at Liberty Lake.
While not a perfect model of new urbanism, MeadowWood incorporates many of its design principles.
A self-contained village, MeadowWood is less than a mile from some of Spokane County’s biggest employers, including Olivetti and Hewlett-Packard.
There is a mix of 900 homes, from apartments to estates, ranging in price from $90,000 to more than $500,000.
There are parks, grocery stores, shops, churches, a day care, and a park-and-ride bus stop. Coming soon: an elementary school and a health club.
The neighborhood is tied together by bike paths and tree-bordered sidewalks. The development is ringed by golf greens and open space, that help give it a sense of “place.”
“It can happen in Spokane, but there have to be dramatic changes in the zoning code and dramatic changes in people’s ways of thinking,” Frank said. “I hope MeadowWood demonstrates what can be done.”
Tom Clark has lived in the neighborhood just three months, but says it was the sense of community that attracted him.
“There is a lot of community pride here,” he says. “We had our own Fourth of July parade. People decorated their golf carts or bikes. It’s a lot of fun.
“When the elementary school is built, the kids will be able to walk there. We have an amphitheater for concerts. There’s going to be a health club nearby,” he said.
Creating MeadowWood was a long battle for Frank.
Existing regulations and codes make it difficult or expensive to implement some new urbanism concepts.
Under ideal circumstances, garages would hide behind houses, with access through an alley. But required minimum street widths make that expensive and impractical.
“That won’t work with current codes,” says Frank.
“It’s a battle we haven’t been able to fight yet. Garages are still in the front of the house. We’d like to change that.”
Frank also said he fought to build a health center within walking distance of the houses and apartments. Although the plan was supported by neighbors, it required a major change in the county zoning code language.
While it’s not easy to build a new urbanism-style neighborhood today, Frank said it would be more difficult to bring back the Corbin Park neighborhood of his childhood.
“The housing, park and schools are still there, but places like Edna’s grocery store are gone. They are zoned out, and you can’t open another one.”
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