A land deal is in the works that could expand soccer fields on the South Hill in exchange for opening more property along South Regal Street to retail development.
Owners of television station KXLY want to develop 14 acres of open land they purchased more than 40 years ago directly south of the Southeast Sports Complex. As part of their plan, they want to put in an access road from Regal to provide better traffic flow to its future retail project.
The soccer fields are owned by the Spokane Parks and Recreation department, which needs voter approval to sell land.
Parks officials are interested in the deal as a way to pay for upgrades to the current fields, but more importantly as an inroad to acquire an adjoining 15-acre piece of land owned by the KXLY group.
Such a longer-term move would add many more playing fields and ease the parking jumble that unfolds on Saturdays during youth soccer season.
“In exchange for what KXLY gets, we would get improvements to the (southside) complex, which we wouldn’t have to pay for. It could be a win-win that allows us to offer something more for our soccer and ball field users there,” said Parks Department Director Leroy Eadie. “We will not do this if it diminishes our recreation options there.”
The Regal corridor has become a retail hub even as many neighbors fought big development. Construction crews are now at work on a new Target store plaza that will add more traffic pressure.
KXLY is owned by Queen B Radio Inc., which includes family members of KXLY’s Wisconsin-based parent company. The land discussion marks the first specific efforts by developers to move forward with plans for a retail project on the property.
The KXLY group is asking the parks department for an easement to build an access road across park land at the southeast edge of the sports complex. That access area would be used as the main road in and out of the 14-acre development, if approved.
The KXLY parcel is across Regal from the Target plaza being developed by Dave Black. Black said he’s talked to KXLY about sharing the cost of installing traffic signals at the intersection of Regal and the Palouse Highway. It makes sense for KXLY to share the costs of the new lighting system, Black said, because it would give the intersection full control of four lanes of traffic.
So far the parks department has signed a letter indicating it will continue discussing the access road deal, said Eadie.
No date has been set for the Park Board to review the easement option.
KXLY’s commercial development proposal, discussed at recent Park Board meetings, also would slice through the city-owned, 2-acre parcel between the KXLY property and the soccer fields.
Eadie said KXLY will likely negotiate with the city separately to buy that parcel and eventually displace the parking that’s located there now.
If KXLY gains the easement, the parks department would replace the loss of the main soccer field at the corner of 46th and Regal. One option would be KXLY paying to add at least one new field on its own undeveloped land. Or the parks department could reconfigure the complex to add a soccer field and bill KXLY for the work, Eadie said.
Eadie said KXLY’s long-range plan, called Phase Two, includes later development of the northeast segment of the soccer fields that border South Regal. But that would first require a land swap by which KXLY might give the city the 15 acres it owns due west of its 14-acre parcel.
In exchange the park board would trade the eastern half of the soccer fields, Eadie said.
The same restriction does not apply to parcels of non-park city land.
Eadie said the Phase Two discussion is “just a concept” KXLY has summarized for the board.
Eadie added that the park board would only consider a swap if the deal improved the recreational options at the Southeast Sports Complex.
The KXLY developers have not applied for any city permits, said Planning Department Director Scott Chesney. The 14-acre parcel that would likely be developed first is zoned for commercial development.
The Southgate Neighborhood Council, the citizen group representing upper South Hill residents, will be watching the progress of the discussions, said the group’s chairman, Ted Teske.
The neighborhood council was stymied by the city in the development of the Target project, he said. Instead of creating a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly project, the Target development continued the pattern of allowing more traffic and more retail sprawl than the group wanted, Teske said.
Their error was trusting the city would enforce its own guidelines for that area, he added.
“This time we will be more vigilant” about the way the KXLY parcel progresses, Teske said.
The neighborhood council could seek legal remedies to control or limit the impacts of the development.
“Since we have legal standing (in this case) because of the developer’s agreement signed with the city, we have legal options,” Teske said. “We may have to play ball, if needed,” he said.