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Skywalk extension proposed

Pedestrians cross a skywalk over Main Avenue in downtown Spokane. A proposed skywalk would span Spokane Falls Boulevard. (Dan Pelle)
Pedestrians cross a skywalk over Main Avenue in downtown Spokane. A proposed skywalk would span Spokane Falls Boulevard. (Dan Pelle)

New hotel would be linked with convention center

Spokane could soon have a new downtown skywalk, the first in more than two decades.

The skywalk would span Spokane Falls Boulevard and join the Spokane Convention Center with the new 15-floor, 720-room hotel under construction across the street.

It would be owned by the Spokane Public Facilities District, which also owns the convention center.

Recent cost estimates place the project at about $1.5 million, which would be covered by voter-approved taxes that are also paying for expanding the convention center, said Kevin Twohig, CEO of the district.

The above-ground walkway would bring the number of hotel rooms attached to the convention center to 1,000. It would be the 16th skywalk in a network that connects more than a dozen downtown city blocks.

The proposed skywalk is about 112 feet long and 18 feet high, which exceeds the city’s 14-foot height limit. The facilities district asked the city to allow that height to disguise the slope of the interior ramp. The difference in floor heights between the hotel and convention center is about 4 feet, 9 inches, according to renderings.

Jim Kolva, agent for the skywalk application, said he doesn’t expect much pushback for exceeding the allowed height because, considering the relative size of surrounding buildings and the length of the walkway, it would be “not as noticeable as on other downtown buildings.”

The facilities district will own 300 public parking spaces in the parking garage attached to the hotel – about a third of the garage’s total spaces.

The Davenport Hotel Collection, a Spokane company owned by Karen and Walt Worthy, bought the land for $6.67 million and began work on the hotel project last year.

The company has yet to settle on an official name but the hotel is operating under the name “Grand Hotel Spokane,” said Matt Jensen, spokesman for the Davenport Hotel Collection.

The company hopes to finalize branding by August, Jensen said. The hotel is expected to open next summer, and more than 40 conventions have already expressed interest from 2015 to 2020, including some in fall 2015, he said.

While skywalks have come to distinguish Spokane – the city was one of the first nationwide to develop an extensive network of climatized walkways – the city hasn’t expanded it since 1994, when the City Council approved two to cross Riverside Avenue and Wall Street.

A planning consultant in 1988 warned Spokane that if the city continued to expand its skywalk system, business on the sidewalks could suffer, according to news archives.

Kolva said a new walkway makes sense because the area surrounding the hotel and convention center doesn’t have the type of activity that typically draws people to the sidewalks.

“Here, you almost have a single purpose because you’re talking about entertainment either at the hotel or the convention center,” he said. “Presumably, the purpose of the hotel is to bring people to Spokane for events.”

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