A residential and commercial project proposed for 80 acres just north of downtown Spokane took a huge step forward Thursday when the city of Spokane’s hearing examiner approved it largely as submitted.
Over the next 20 years, Kendall Yards will bring 2,600 residences and 1 million square feet of commercial space to the land poised above the north bank of the Spokane River, stretching west from Monroe Street to Summit Boulevard.
The project is proposed as an urban village, where everyone from college students to retirees will live in housing ranging from apartment buildings to town homes to upscale condominiums. Housing will be accompanied by shops, restaurants and landmark plazas that will draw in the public and connect to the Centennial Trail.
“This is a great accomplishment for the community and I think it’s going to be a showcase development and provide innumerable benefits to the city,” said Tom Reese, project manager for Kendall Yards. “We’re very, very pleased with what the hearing examiner came back with. It’s pretty much a straight across approval … as we had submitted it.”
Reese said the project team is involved in the design and engineering of Phase I, which includes the land between Maple and Monroe streets, south of Bridge Avenue. That land will be the site of 747,000 square feet of commercial space and 785 residential units. Reese anticipates pulling the first permits, for streets improvements and sewer and water lines, by spring.
“That will be the first activity people will see out on the site,” Reese said. After that, the first building to be constructed, he said, would probably be one directly west of the Monroe Street Bridge.
Hearing Examiner Greg Smith managed to walk an extremely fine line as both the development team and the project’s two most vocal critics applauded the decision. Though Smith denied an appeal of the project’s environmental approval, the appellants, John and Rachael Paschal Osborn, said they were happy with the decision.
“All of the concerns we raised were addressed in the conditions of the permit,” Paschal Osborn said. “We feel that the hearing examiner understood the issues that were being raised and put appropriate conditions on the project to address those concerns.”
Despite expressing approval, the Osborns said they still may appeal the decision to the City Council, which must be done within 14 days – by Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m.
Reese said the conditions of approval already were agreed to by the developer when the project was presented to the hearing examiner Aug. 3. They include conducting a traffic-calming study for streets in the West Central neighborhood; completing a Habitat Management Plan to reduce impacts on the Spokane River Gorge, including from pets and light; submitting all eight- to 12-story buildings for design review and permitting by the city; and signing a development agreement with the city that addresses the financing of numerous street improvements.
The tall buildings were a particular concern for people who spoke at the August public hearing. Though many people said they were appropriate for the downtown core, several others thought they would be an eyesore for people who enjoy views from the river corridor.
Smith largely dismissed those concerns, saying the primary impact those tall buildings would have would be on other residents of the development, from shadows or light. He did, however, require that each of the taller buildings be submitted to the city for individual review.
“That battle is left to be fought another day if someone wants to fight,” Paschal Osborn said.