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Sat., May 3, 2014, midnight

New plaza, park downtown gems

Spokane has a new economic asset. A new tourism asset. A new community gathering place. You probably haven’t seen it yet, but you should make a point to go. It’s a longtime member of the community but, now, it’s been dramatically revamped and renewed. Welcome back, Huntington Park!

It’s really a two-part destination: the new plaza next door to City Hall and the redeveloped Huntington Park itself, which flows from the plaza and nestles right up to the Spokane River. This wonderful destination opens up and reconnects the lower falls of the Spokane River to the upper falls in Riverfront Park. Together, they are gems that remind us we are a community that thinks big and comes together to get things done.

The city of Spokane provided the land for the plaza and lent many types of support to the process. Avista developed the city property into the plaza as a gift to Spokane and revamped the park (without using city funds or rate dollars) to commemorate the company’s 125th anniversary and its partnership with the community – a partnership that dates back to 1889.

Who benefits? We all do. It’s not just a new gathering space. The plaza, with its water and flame features, will be a place for concerts, speeches, club meetings, social groups and quiet lunches. It opens onto Huntington Park, which for years seemed inaccessible. It now has rolling grassy hills, beautiful sculptures and breathtaking views of the lower falls. It’s a new place in the heart of our city where you can get oh-so-close to our river. Close enough to hear the roar of the falls and feel the spray of the water.

These new areas say something important about Spokane. They remind us of our historic connection to the river, of the tribes who fished and gathered on its shores, of the early European settlers who harnessed its power to build a city and to fuel industry to create jobs. They remind us that we are unbelievably fortunate to live in a place that has a majestic river running right through the heart of the city.

The park is named after David L. Huntington, Washington Water Power’s third president. He led the utility during a time of unprecedented growth in our region, including the building of the world’s longest transmission line at the time, which delivered energy to the Silver Valley to help power its growing mining industry. Huntington was also at the helm when the company donated land that became a part of one of our other community gems: Manito Park.

Forty years ago this month, our community came together and made another big dream come true when Spokane hosted Expo ’74, the world’s fair. As we take time to celebrate these accomplishments, it’s a good time to reflect on Spokane’s rich history and the values that have made us who we are as a community: a willingness to work hard, dream big and come together to make things happen.

The board chairs of Greater Spokane Incorporated, Visit Spokane and Downtown Spokane Partnership are in deep gratitude to Avista for turning this new destination into what it is today: a place that makes Spokane more vibrant, and creates a special new experience for our residents and our visitors. This is a wonderful reminder for all of us of what we can do as a community, together.

Mick McDowell is the chairman of the Downtown Spokane Partnership.

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