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Kendall Yards works to mesh with surrounding neighbors

The lights of Kendall Yards are seen from Peaceful Valley in this timed-exposure photograph Aug. 26 in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland)
The lights of Kendall Yards are seen from Peaceful Valley in this timed-exposure photograph Aug. 26 in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Residents at the edges of the Kendall Yards development say the cool downtown Spokane project has boosted their neighborhoods and transformed an eyesore into a bustling civic gathering spot.

Still, there are some growing pains.

Some residents of Peaceful Valley, across the Spokane River from Kendall Yards, say the development has created excessive night lighting that has already changed the serene nature of the river gorge.

On the other side of Kendall Yards, there has sometimes been an assumption that any petty crime taking place in the development is caused by West Central residents, a COPS shop manager there said.

Bobby Enslow, owner of Indaba Coffee Bar on West Broadway Avenue, not far from Kendall Yards, said such concerns are typical in a newly populated area built next to long-established neighborhoods.

He said in his experience the 77-acre Kendall Yards development has an “us and them” perception of its neighbors, which is better than an “us versus them” attitude.

“That perception will change over time,” as residents along the north side of the river develop closer ties and make more connections, said Enslow, who moved into West Central in 2008.

The night-sky issue has been on the mind of Peaceful Valley resident Jan Loux, who’s lived near the Spokane River on Clarke Street for 10 years. She said she believes Kendall Yards’ ongoing expansion will leave the Spokane River gorge saturated with night lighting.

Until four years ago when Greenstone Corp. began work in Kendall Yards, the hills and dusty mounds on the river’s north side sat in darkness.

Another Peaceful Valley resident, Carol Bryan, said she feels Greenstone could do a better job of reducing the glare of lights across from her home.

Businesses and intersections need lights, Bryan said, but she’s sure “light trespass” can be curtailed as the project continues to expand.

She said she called Greenstone inquiring about light options. “They never got back to me,” Bryan said.

So far Greenstone has built nearly 120 homes and townhouses and more than 115 apartments. Another seven businesses have opened in the eastern half of Kendall Yards.

Jim Frank, the CEO of Greenstone, said his company has worked hard to be a good neighbor.

He said lighting in Kendall Yards was designed specifically to reduce glare.

Greenstone bought expensive, downward-directed lighting, both on commercial poles near businesses and on poles at intersections of residential areas in Kendall Yards.

Those lights use low-energy LED-style bulbs and cost more than the typical streetlights installed by Avista Utilities, Frank said.

“I’d invite people to come over and look at what we have done,” he said.

As for the crime issue, Kelly Cruz, manager of the West Central COPS neighborhood police shop, said a few Kendall Yards residents have expressed concerns about loitering, car-prowling and trespassing.

James Pinyan, a 25-year resident of West Central, said it’s easy for Kendall Yards property owners to assume their crime stems from West Central troublemakers. The area has carried the designation “felony flats” for decades, he said.

But while West Central may account for some crime, “it’s not all from here,” he said. He said Kendall Yards will continue to attract some crime “because it’s a new place, and lots of people tend to go in there and look around.”

He added, “If you build a million-dollar hotel in downtown LA, don’t be surprised if you see graffiti.”

Frank said he hasn’t heard Kendall Yards residents single out their West Central neighbors as the source of the development’s crime.

His goal is to bridge the social and physical separation between Kendall Yards and the West Central community.

“Kendall Yards is a part of West Central. That is our neighborhood,” he said.

He wants to ensure Kendall Yards doesn’t isolate itself socially or physically from West Central, Frank said, noting that the development’s string of homes along its northern boundary, Bridge Avenue, all face north toward West Central homes.

He said Kendall Yards residents are taking active roles with West Central groups, wanting to develop stronger ties. Greenstone, additionally, has provided a number of donations to West Central programs, including $25,000 to the Youth For Christ program.

The development company also will bring “porchfest” to the area on Sept. 13, featuring live music throughout the day on five porches in Kendall Yards and on five porches in West Central.

The goal is to have residents in both communities walk back and forth and meet each other, Frank said.

Enslow endorsed that idea. But he also said he hopes the two communities have a common meeting ground, a physical location that both groups would see as a shared space.

“I hope the new park they’re planning to finish” – Olmsted Park south of Summit Parkway – “can be that common meeting spot,” he said.