Concerned residents who fought to add pedestrian-friendly features in a proposed Target retail project on the South Hill gained a little ground Wednesday during a City Hall hearing.
Residents persuaded the city of Spokane’s Design Review Board to recommend an extra pedestrian trail on the south boundary of the Target project.
The citizen review board will forward that recommendation among others to the city’s planning director, Scott Chesney. Chesney is not bound to accept the recommendations.
Unless the city finds other concerns to slow the project, developer Dave Black said after Wednesday’s meeting that he hopes to start work on the project this summer.
A separate environmental review process allows residents to address concerns about the project’s impact on land and water.
Black said he’s worked on the project for close to 10 years. When completed, the 15-acre project at the intersection of South Regal Street and Palouse Highway will create a 135,000-square-foot Target store, plus about a dozen other retail sites nearby.
Residents of the Southgate neighborhood group had tried to convince city officials in earlier meetings that the Target project was too focused on vehicles and not enough on “urban” amenities including more pedestrian access and community open space.
In response to earlier concerns, Black and his design firm, Bernardo-Wills Architects, added a community green space that will serve as a buffer and gathering spot on the project’s northwest corner.
Black said after the meeting he hopes to have the Target open in 2014, culminating a project he estimated will cost $30 million. During meetings with neighborhood residents, Black has said some details of the design are controlled by Target, which requires certain parts of the project to conform to its plan.
Black and designer Gary Bernardo both agreed to add the path on the south boundary during Wednesday’s review board session. They pointed out the project also has one north-south and two other east-west pedestrian walkways across the site.That new walkway access would be key for residents of apartments and residences south of the proposed store, said board member Colleen Gardner.
She said many residents would otherwise enter the development at the southwest corner and then cut through the parking lot toward Target’s entrance, which is at the north end of its west-facing wall.
Black noted, however, that Target doesn’t want a walkway across the entire southern edge of the site. If the path passed alongside loading areas at that corner of the store, there would be safety concerns, Black said.
In response the board suggested and Black agreed to create a new path from Regal, heading halfway down the southern edge along the parking lot.
Ted Teske, the vice chair of the Southgate Neighborhood Council, said getting an added path was one victory in a long and not fully successful effort to move the project closer to the planning concept that city documents call a District Center, which specifically urges developments to be friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists than to vehicles.
Teske said the planned site will have more than 600 parking spaces, despite the District Center’s goal to encourage non-vehicular traffic.
Teske and the Southgate group also feel they’ve made strides that will help as the city gets new development proposals for two nearby land parcels to the Target site.
“We hope this effort gives us more opportunity to avoid some of the design pitfalls we faced this time” when the city starts reviewing the two other nearby sites, Teske said.
The following sentence was added Thursday to this report: After permits are submitted by the developer, the city’s engineering department will scrutinize the proposal’s street and traffic impacts.
Black, for his part, said the Target project will be the most distinctive commercial development he’s seen planned for Spokane.
The amount of green space, landscaping, lighting, walking paths and other features will create a harmonious, visually exciting area, he said.
“With the extensive landscaping planned, there may come a time when you will barely see the Target store (from the road),” he said.