March 21, 2010 in Opinion

Shenanigan’s purchase makes sense for future

 

A decade ago, when plans were being laid for an expansion of the Spokane Convention Center, the Public Facilities District had to decide whether to extend the original facility to the south or to the east.

Going south, across Spokane Falls Boulevard, had a lot of appeal. Besides dressing up the bleak expanse of surface parking that’s there now, it would have accentuated the Convention Center’s nearness to the downtown retail core. Out-of-town visitors here on business would have found an inviting, walkable opportunity to take a break and spend some cash.

But the PFD opted instead to build east toward Division. That option was not devoid of certain advantages, but the biggest was the ability to avoid the delays, costs and complications associated with a protracted property-acquisition battle.

Indeed, with future phases of Convention Center expansion to consider, the district continued to negotiate with property owners south of Spokane Falls Boulevard, finally wrapping up the transaction only a year and a half ago, and only after futile negotiations had given way to awkward adventures in the realm of eminent domain.

That uncomfortable experience is not one the PFD wants to repeat, giving its recent purchase of C.I. Shenanigan’s a pre-emptive quality that might prove foresighted over the next three to five years.

That’s the time frame in which officials believe they’ll need to move forward with the next expansion phase, to include some 2,500 square feet of added meeting space plus a parking structure that incorporates street-level retail space. The parking facility will go across Spokane Falls Boulevard, but the Shenanigan’s restaurant location along the Spokane River has been deemed the most plausible area for more meeting rooms.

Looking too far into the future gets tricky. Much depends on the overall economy and the adequacy of suitable hotel rooms. Convention planning and facility expansion will have to respond to those developments as they unfold.

But when the 30-year-old restaurant’s owners let the PFD know that a change in their business style made the property available, the talks were on.

Without specific plans on the table, and without capital funding that would eventually have to come via voter approval, the Shenanigan’s purchase is unquestionably speculative. But if the city wants to remain competitive in the convention and tourism field, public officials deserve credit for trying to anticipate needs and avoid complications.

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