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Grapetree Proposal Held Up For Further Study

City plan commissioners last week endorsed the idea of allowing neighborhood businesses on the same sites as apartments and offices.

But the Spokane Plan Commission said it isn’t yet ready to give a green light to the Grapetree development on 29th Avenue.

The commission voted unanimously on Feb. 26 to write new provisions for mixed-use developments, a concept some call new urbanism.

The action comes because developer and architect Glen Cloninger wants to combine neighborhood shops and apartments on a 7.7-acre site on East 29th Avenue.

The Grapetree Park development would include the existing Applebee’s restaurant on 29th near Martin Street.

The proponents of new urbanism say the existing pattern of strip malls surrounded by apartments has created huge zones of land ruled by cars and asphalt.

A better approach would be returning to old-fashioned neighborhoods, where people meet face-to-face on sidewalks in smaller commercial developments.

The South Perry business district is an example of the older style.

The city comprehensive plan doesn’t allow those kinds of developments anymore, except on the north bank of the Spokane River, where urban renewal is being encouraged.

Cloninger argues that successful cities have embraced mixed-use developments because they combine the best of the old and the new.

He wants to prove his point in the Grapetree development, which he said would be something like his decade-old Tapio Center office park at Second and Freya.

The Tapio Center, which houses offices and a restaurant, has a pleasing natural environment with groves of trees, and buildings clad in natural-toned wood.

Grapetree would strive to be attractive as well, but with the use of masonry and brick on the buildings, sidewalks and public common areas.

Plan Commissioners said they like the idea on first blush, but they are reluctant to approve mixed-use development without more study.

“We need good criteria of how it fits into the neighborhoods,” said Commissioner Jim Kolva.

The changes Cloninger seeks would affect the entire city, so commissioners said they want to be sure any changes they make will be workable at other locations.

“We have a responsibility to share this with the public,” Kolva said.

Planning Director Charlie Dotson said progressive communities are allowing mixed-use developments, a style also called neo-traditional development.

Cloninger said he wasn’t disappointed that the Plan Commission delayed approval of mixed-use development even though it means his project will stay on hold for now.

“Here is a conduit to make it work,” he said.

, DataTimes