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Hillyard outlines its future

Newly elected City Council member Amber Waldref and Mayor Mary Verner listen to presentations at a Greater Hillyard Northeast Planning Alliance  meeting Saturday at the Masonic Temple on Market Street. (Pia Hallenberg)
Newly elected City Council member Amber Waldref and Mayor Mary Verner listen to presentations at a Greater Hillyard Northeast Planning Alliance meeting Saturday at the Masonic Temple on Market Street. (Pia Hallenberg)

Goals include better parks, tourism and environmental responsibility

It was darn cold outside and fairly chilly inside the Masonic Temple on North Market Street Saturday morning, but that didn’t deter about 30 people from showing up for a neighborhood planning progress report presented by community volunteers.

Earlier this year, Bemiss, Hillyard and Whitman neighborhoods created the Greater Hillyard Northeast Planning Alliance and now it was time for alliance members to discuss how far they’d come in identifying goals to improve their area.

J.R. Sloan, the manager of the Greater Hillyard Business Association, opened the meeting. “We are here to give you an update on 23 specific goals.”

Those goals were developed by community members in 2002 when a Centers and Corridors planning model was adopted by the city of Spokane to encourage development of urban hubs.

Alliance member Charlene Carr discussed the goal of improving public areas for family activities and the community. “We’d like to know where you tend to walk when you walk in Hillyard,” said Carr, “so we can make it safer and easier for you.”

Management of park facilities such as picnic pavilions and other shared areas was brought up, too.

“The neighborhood should partner with the Parks Department when it comes to planning our parks,” Carr said. Focusing on reviving Block Watch groups should also be a priority, she added.

Member Bob Haddock talked about improving housing and commercial buildings by focusing on environmentally responsible construction within existing neighborhood buildings, bringing in hotels and hostels and attracting tourism.

“We all know it takes people and funding to make these things happen,” said Haddock.

He said Hillyard may be a good location for a “green store” which would serve as an outlet for recycled building materials and environmentally responsible technology as well as a hub for neighborhood business and development loans.

“Quite a few residents may be stuck with stuff they can’t get rid off, they don’t have the tools, the pickups, that kind of thing – a local green store could take care of some of that,” said Haddock.

“Cleaning and Greening the Neighborhoods” was the topic presented by alliance member Mike Rapp.

“Last time we cleaned up we took out 11, completely full, 30-yard dumpsters from the three neighborhoods,” Rapp said. “Graffiti is everywhere – especially in Hillyard.”

Rapp said it would be a great idea to partner with the city on code enforcement issues. That strategy was recently tried out in West Central with some success.

“Our community garden has been very successful, we can’t wait to get more gardens going,” said Rapp.

Robert Lawrence talked about improving public safety. “We think community-oriented policing is a great idea, but there’s not much more we can do until we get some more money,” Lawrence said.

In the meantime, he encouraged people to look out for their neighbors, keep in touch and get to know who’s living next door.

“We also have a lot of residents who can’t get around real well; We are looking at ways to help them,” said Lawrence.

Luke Tolley, a longtime neighborhood activist both on the neighborhood council and in the business association, talked about business development.

He said the historical interest of Hillyard – which has one of the oldest rail yards in the state – has yet to be fully exploited as a visitor attraction.

“All the great old buildings out there have upstairs areas that you have probably never seen,” said Tolley.

Retaining and developing Hillyard businesses serving everyday needs such as groceries should also have a high priority.

“Every time we make a trip over to Division to shop, I’m sure we think, ‘Why can’t I get that in Hillyard?’ ” said Tolley.

He also mentioned east Hillyard as a potential location for an industrial park.

“Right now the city of Spokane is annexing land out on the West Plains for industrial uses and we have some right here,” said Tolley.

Sloan presented goals for improvement of transportation and infrastructure. The alliance and Spokane Regional Health District conducted a pedestrian survey that identifies common areas for walking in Hillyard.

Community members and the state Department of Transportation meet monthly to discuss issues such as the impact of the north-south freeway on the Hillyard area, Sloan said.

He added that Hillyard would be a great pilot project when Spokane Transit Authority starts looking into electric bus and rail transit.

“Our district is the most energy inefficient in the city as evidenced by the broken-down cars in the yards,” said Sloan. “Residents can’t afford a new efficient car, they buy an old one, it breaks down, they can’t afford to get rid of it, and they can’t afford a new one.”

Public transportation should be high on the list of community priorities, he added.

Last on the list of presenters was Michael Carlson, who discussed changing the area’s image.

Carlson said branding Hillyard in a positive manner and organized communication via e-mail or a newsletter are important as the neighborhoods move forward with their planning.

“I love that the mayor herself came up here today,” Carlson said at the end of the meeting. “We know how to get things done in Hillyard – we are excited about our future here.”