“All of Argonne is going to be commercial,” Ron Armacost said.
It was 1988. He was battling the neighbors of Pasadena Park for the chance to build a Zip Trip gas and grocery at the crossroads of Upriver Drive and Argonne Road.
The roadside farther south was becoming a blurry montage of fast-food joints, $8 buffets and third-tier retail shops. It wasn’t unreasonable to think the sprawling strip development would charge through Millwood and right across the Spokane River to Pasadena Park.
But the neighborhood had something else in mind. It protested loud and long, eventually drafting a neighborhood plan that Spokane County adopted. Sixteen years after that initial fight, there still isn’t a business sign hanging on Argonne as it courses through Pasadena.
The neighborhood’s fate seems to be changing, though. County commissioners expect to vote this month on opening Pasadena Park to businesses. It’s getting hard to hear the neighborhood’s objections over the ever-increasing traffic rumbling down the street. At least along the corridor, the neighborhood’s quasi-rural appeal is fading, though neighbors see things differently.
“There’s no reason to have businesses or anything on this side of the river and it should stay that way,” said Josie Bucknell.
Bucknell, who moved to Pasadena Park in 1954, lives on the southwest corner of Argonne and Wellesley, where a curtain of tall pines keeps the endless stream of cars from her view. The roar of the road is a different story, as pervasive as mating crickets.
One block away, horses stretch their necks over neighboring fences to nibble tall grass. There are gardens big enough to fill crates of canning jars. Neighborhood children race bikes down the middle of the street unchallenged by cars. If you can overlook the traffic, most neighbors say there’s enough of that pastoral lifestyle along the strip worth fighting for still. Most, but not all.
It is Bucknell’s neighbor who is throwing in the towel. Diana Province, a landowner on the east side of the Argonne and Wellesley intersection, has asked, and county planning officials have recommended, that a business be allowed at the intersection, where Province hasn’t lived in many years. Her attorney, Stacy Bjordahl, calls the southeast corner of the intersection unlivable. Neighborhood intentions aside, there’s nothing bucolic about the intersection.
“It was used as a rental, but the renter moved out because of all the traffic,” Bjordahl said. “She’s been unable to rent it since.”
Province’s land will not be home to the kind of gas and grocery that neighbors have fought off three times since 1988. The land is too close to the community water supply for convenience store fuel tanks. It won’t be ground zero for a commercial strip, according to planners, because new county zoning requires clustered businesses, instead of ribbons of retail. The deep lot and small Craftsman-style home is raw material for any other possibility that comes along.
Most would agree that Pasadena Park is caught at a crossroad between someplace and someplace else. There are nearly as many cars zipping up Argonne – 25,000 a day – as there are on Highway 395 to Colville. The road connects Spokane Valley with north Spokane via Bigalow Gulch and West Spokane Valley to Mount Spokane State Park.
At the corner of the Argonne and Upriver drive, traffic is so overwhelming it is impossible to stand in a front yard and converse at normal volumes. Backing a car out of a driveway at midday can be nearly impossible.
And if a homeowner can’t make it onto the road, customers certainly couldn’t, neighbors argue.
“It’s not a suitable place for left turns,” said Phil Kincaid, who lives on Argonne.
Kincaid is part of the original group that crafted a plan to keep business out of the neighborhood. He was there when the neighbors were informed that all of Argonne would be commercial. And he remembers how the neighbors worked with government officials to locate a library where that first convenience store was proposed.
Those solutions came from neighbors who knew each other for decades. The fear now is that the new neighbors will close shop at the end of the workday and slip onto the road to someplace else.