The South Perry District has become one of Spokane’s hippest neighborhoods, and even a huge hole in the ground can’t deflate the upbeat mood shared by residents and business owners there.
The gaping crater on the corner of Ninth Avenue and Perry Street is where a married couple plan to build a restaurant on the ground level and apartments on the second floor.
Harold Preiksaitis and Lisanne Laurier, both doctors, said they chose the Perry District for their first Spokane commercial project because it had a dynamic, zestful neighborhood feeling.
Decades ago that corner featured a gas station, until it was replaced by a print shop, which was torn down last year. An underground septic system that was deeper than expected required extensive digging to remove.
Preiksaitis and Laurier will be joining others who chose the South Perry District. Cody Coombs, a Spokane developer, bought property at 11th Avenue and Perry and is preparing plans to put in a single-level commercial building. That project will include retail and commercial tenants, Coombs said, adding he can’t identify those businesses until after he submits building plans.
James Pearson and Mike and Melinda Dolmage, the owners of the Lantern Tap House at 10th Avenue, are expanding into the vacant space next door to their business. They’ve opened up the wall that separated their business from the Perry Street Café, which closed in December.
Within a few weeks they’ll reopen and serve lunch and dinner in the additional space.
Two years ago, women’s clothing retailer Title Nine chose the corner of Perry and Ninth for its first Spokane store. The company added they wanted to be in an “up and coming neighborhood” and not squashed into a mall or the central business district.
Deb Conklin, pastor of Liberty Park United Methodist Church, is also president of the South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association.
She sees the evolution of the neighborhood as a solid argument against efforts to expand Spokane’s urban growth boundaries.
The city needs more neighborhoods like South Perry, she said, where residents can walk to shops, find good entertainment and meet their neighbors.
“It’s really cool to be able to walk to this business center at night and not have to worry,” Conklin said.
The change hasn’t happened quickly, Conklin noted. A number of key changes came first, including a block grant several years ago from the city to add sidewalk and street improvements.
Local entrepreneur Mark Camp then bought two buildings and had them renovated. One is popular coffee shop and music venue The Shop; the other is the former Altamont Pharmacy building now shared by Title Nine and restaurant Casper Fry.
In 2009 the Lantern Tap House obtained a liquor license, which Conklin said allowed for more night street traffic and eventually to the opening of South Perry Pizza.
Those two businesses deserve much of the credit for encouraging people to feel comfortable walking to and from the business district, Conklin said.
She’s also convinced additional changes are needed to help South Perry become more successful. Those include a better bike path connector to the rest of the community and a good food market. “What we really need here is our own Huckleberry’s,” she said.
While working on remodeling inside the Lantern Tap House this week, Pearson said he decided to become a part owner of the tavern in January because he’s become a South Perry convert.
“What I like is that the district is a grass-roots effort,” Pearson said. “The changes are coming from people who are invested in the community, not from some outside group.”
He and the Dolmages wanted to take over the abandoned café in order to appeal to families. “We could only appeal to those 21 and over in the Lantern,” Mike Dolmage said. With the dining area, families with children can be served together.
Conklin said the sense of stronger community probably played some role in the temporary hold on work at the pit at Ninth and Perry.
Several residents had contacted the city to report that the demolition work was producing silt that spilled from the lot into the street.
Preiksaitis, a gastroenterologist who works in Coeur d’Alene, said the city’s hold order made sense, in that the work resulted in a larger removal of dirt than a demolition permit allows.
“Now that we got the hole that deep, we’ve decided to add a basement to the plans,” he said.
He told city planners he’ll move forward when his architect completes the plans and files for a permit.
“One thing we will do is have a building that feels at home there in the Perry neighborhood,” he said. “It will reflect the qualities of the neighborhood.”