Not more than two blocks from the Davenport Grand Hotel there is an economic revival of small bars, restaurants, an organic grocery, salons, an art-movie house, community advocacy organizations, specialty retail shops and a smattering of housing.
It’s a downtown success story that got its start before plans were announced for the new convention center hotel.
But some of the local business owners predict that the expansion of the Spokane Convention Center and construction of the new Davenport Grand convention hotel are going to bring even more investment to the neighborhood.
Three years ago, Jeremy Tangen, a 2006 WSU Spokane graduate, bought Fast Eddies at the corner of Division Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard. Earlier this year, he expanded down the block, opening Borracho Tacos and Tequileria.
He said he chose the area because he sees the combination of public and private investment as a powerful tool for economic growth. That public investment includes state expansion of the University District, he said.
“That area has completely turned around from what it had been,” said Tangen, who lives nearby and walks to work.
The crowds who show up every day for shopping and entertainment are being drawn largely by the intriguing fabric of the neighborhood, not large convention facilities. Downtown residents are a big part of the clientele.
Three years ago, Tangen counted four bars. Now, there are a dozen, he said.
“Most of the people around here live and own and work in this neighborhood,” said John Waite, owner of Merlyn’s Spokane, a bookstore and collectible shop at 15 W. Main Ave.
Still, Tangen and Waite both said the growing convention complex is likely to bring them more business. They also said the addition of 900 parking spots at the Davenport Grand will help alleviate what has become a critical shortage of parking.
City officials said parking meters in the area are the most-frequently plugged in the city.
In turn, the organic feel on West Main and Division will offer conventiongoers a slice of local flavor just a short walk from their rooms.
Tangen said large conventions typically bring a 15 percent increase in sales. He said an expected increase in larger conventions and their frequency will add to his bottom line.
The downside may be increased competition, but that’s good for customers because it will cause service and quality to improve, he said.
Both Tangen and Waite predicted that vacant storefronts will see new development in coming years with the Davenport Grand linking three distinct parts of the inner city – West Main, the University District and the central business district.
Dan Spalding was one of the West Main pioneers, buying the Longbotham Building at 22 W. Main two decades ago.
Across the street, Jim Sheehan redeveloped the Community Building, 35 W. Main, in 2001. It houses the Center for Justice, which Sheehan founded, and other organizations.
Sheehan’s work has continued with development of the Main Market Co-op, 44 W. Main; the Saranac Hotel, 25 W. Main; and now the Saranac Commons, 19 W. Main.
Under construction, the Commons is slated to have a series of interconnected shops, food outlets and a microbrewery. Sun People Dry Goods is planning to move into one of the spaces.
Mike Livingston, a commercial real estate broker for Kiemle & Hagood Co., said he sees West Main developing into “one great big boulevard from the University District to downtown and the (Riverpark Square) mall.”
Livingston, who sits on the board of the University District Development Association, said the addition of the Davenport Grand “will add a lot of foot traffic to the streets.”
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