Did you know the busiest crosswalks in the city of Spokane are located not downtown, but in the University District, near the Gonzaga University campus?
It was in one of these crosswalks, on Hamilton Street, where Chris Nichols was hit by a car while walking home. Nichols, a resident of the Logan Neighborhood and co-owner of Chairs Public House, serves on a planning committee working to revitalize the Hamilton Corridor in a “main street” model.
This model requires development that promotes safety, livability and economic development for the students, residents and businesses of the Logan/Gonzaga neighborhood. This approach has yielded positive results in many other locations, including the South Perry and Garland districts.
So it’s no surprise that, when Nichols found out McDonald’s had started construction of a drive-thru-only facility on Hamilton, he was one of the first voices in opposition.
This McDonald’s drive-thru “restaurant,” among the first of its kind in the world, violates the city’s pending Hamilton Corridor plan for Main Street-style development, safe pedestrian passage and higher-density housing.
The drive-thru McDonald’s embraces none of the positive qualities in the city’s plan. In fact, McDonald’s design flies directly in the face of the neighborhood’s vision for the future. And yet, the project is moving forward because McDonald’s resisted calls to revise their design or find a more suitable building site.
As two elected officials who represent the Logan Neighborhood, we are disappointed that McDonald’s local franchisee and corporate representatives chose to ignore their neighbors and the responsible development plan created in coordination with the city’s planning department.
Every developer along the Hamilton Corridor in the past several years has respected the intent of the city comprehensive plan’s “Centers and Corridors” design standards because smart urban planning is ultimately good for their business and their community.
McDonald’s was well aware of the community’s desire to have this development conform with the new design standards. McDonald’s representatives attended meetings, but they offered only platitudes about their desire to be a good neighbor while simultaneously refusing to work with the neighborhood to achieve a mutually agreeable design.
We applaud the Spokane City Council’s recent emergency six-month moratorium on permits for new drive-thrus and building setbacks on the Hamilton Corridor. This action won’t halt McDonald’s, but it creates an opportunity to put new rules in place that will prevent other developers from ignoring the will of the community.
We urge the swift passage of the pending plan for the Hamilton Corridor, which will codify the character and quality of development. And, we stand ready to assist with a larger community effort to effectively encourage responsible, safe and productive development throughout our city.
It will take strong leadership and participation from neighbors, students, developers and business owners like Nichols to ensure that responsible, pedestrian-oriented development of the Hamilton Corridor continues.
In the end, everyone wins if we have economic development that supports and respects a place people seek to go to rather than simply drive through.