About 500 Spokane residents filled a meeting room in the Spokane Convention Center on Thursday, anxious to offer their visions for downtown.
After two hours of imagining the future, it was clear the key to a vital downtown is enticing people to live, work, shop, eat and play in the city center.
The event was the first in a series of public meetings hosted by the Downtown Spokane Partnership, the group charged with writing a new plan directing downtown’s future development.
City Planning Director Charlie Dotson was thrilled with the turnout for the “Envision Spokane” event.
“You’ve made my dream come true by showing your willingness to be a part of this planning process,” Dotson told the crowd.
Dotson noted the original downtown plan was prepared 40 years ago with little input from the public.
“That has changed, the public now has a primary say in how the plan will be developed.”
Audience members talked about the city’s assets: a beautiful river and park, the Centennial Trail, the Davenport Hotel, medical, education and government centers.
Then Daniel Iacofano, a member of the Berkeley, Calif., consulting team hired to help develop the plan, encouraged participants to share their dreams for downtown.
The downtown plan is expected to cost about $500,000, with $250,000 going to the consultant team of Moore, Iacofano, Goltsman Inc.
“Twenty or thirty years from now, what would you like to see downtown?” Iacofano asked.
The answers were sometimes simple: a fresh vegetable market and a bakery in Crescent Court, mature trees, an open-air flower shop, no billboards, more benches, more places for people to sit and visit.
“A downtown that doesn’t roll up the carpet at 6 p.m.,” one woman said. “Put people in all those empty buildings.
Other wishes were more controversial: a multi-use sports complex, a racetrack and amusement park, a north-south freeway, a wider Monroe street.
“Get rid of the Lincoln Street Bridge and turn Salty’s restaurant into a Native American interpretive center,” said Frank Yuse, to cheers from the crowd.
Some visions went both ways: “Keep the skywalks.” “Get rid of the skywalks.”
But a clear refrain emerged. Downtown needs a wide mix of housing, shops, businesses and activities to make it a vital, viable 24-hour city where people want to spend time and money.
One woman said her dream is to someday see the Showcase of Homes move downtown.
“This is a defining moment in the life of Spokane,” said Roberta Greene, the City Council’s representative to the Downtown Plan Steering Committee.
Consultants will study land use, traffic patterns, economics and community comments. Then they’ll help create a plan and suggest strategies for making it work.
Public hearings will be conducted in the fall before a final plan is adopted by the City Council.
The downtown plan becomes part of the overall comprehensive plan being created by Spokane Horizons volunteers.
After the meeting, Margaret Watson said she was disappointed in the lack of diversity on the 27-member Downtown Plan Steering Committee.
“It needs to be a lot larger and more representative,” she said.
Others expressed dismay in the lack of ethnic and cultural diversity among the Thursday night crowd.
Laura Delaney, project coordinator for the Downtown Spokane Partnership, said efforts were made to encourage a diverse audience.
“Our outreach strategy included many, many different target groups. Cultural diversity was one of those,” she said.
Delaney said 150 community organizations and various community centers were contacted and invited.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: FINAL PLAN Consultants will study land use, traffic patterns, economics and community comments on Spokane’s downtown. Then they’ll help create a plan and suggest strategies for making it work. Public hearings will be conducted in the fall before a final plan is adopted by the City Council.