For all its history and blue-collar pride, Hillyard has been identified for years – fairly or not – with a touch of the rough and tumble.
Old-timers remember the Spokane County judge who pronounced from the bench that there are three things about Hillyard: Everybody drinks. Everybody fights. Everybody is armed.
The remark triggered Hillyard’s pride along with its fighting spirit, although the weapons of choice were pens and petitions.
In the end, the chastened judge apologized and then joined neighborhood leaders in a pitch to the City Council for more police presence in the northeast Spokane community – underscoring the fact that even residents shared some of the judge’s public safety concerns for the area.
Years of trying to shake that image are getting some well-earned help now, thanks to what the Greater Hillyard Business Association is describing as Spokane’s largest revitalization project since Expo ’74.
Streets are being repaved, sidewalks upgraded, trees added, lighting installed, utility lines modernized. The package includes a new municipal swimming pool for the young and a 35-unit residential complex for low-income senior citizens.
Before long, there will be a walking and biking corridor linking Hillyard to the Centennial Trail. The state Transportation Department’s North-South Corridor will feature a Wellesley Street interchange that will make Hillyard more readily accessible to motorists interested in visiting the historic railroading community and its antique stores.
So will widening Bigelow Gulch Road to four lanes from Freya Street to Sullivan Road in the Spokane Valley.
City, state, federal and private funds dedicated to the effort add up to an investment of more than $16 million.
State and local government officials have teamed with business, civic and neighborhood leaders to assure a coordinated approach and to help merchants survive weeks of traffic disruption.
By winter, the Hillyard streetscape should boast a new, walkable, family-friendly look and an identity as the place where everybody thirsts for progress, everybody fights for the neighborhood and everybody is armed with determination.