The Regal Street Business Corridor was attracting developers like moths to a corner streetlight. Local residents, not wishing to be plowed under in the mad scramble, needed an advocate. Enter the Southgate Neighborhood Council.
“We are growing, and the city and county near us is growing,” said Andy Hoye, Southgate’s treasurer and community assembly representative. “The population that is served here by the commercial developments is not limited to the neighborhood.”
“I think there’s a balance that needs to be struck,” council co-chair Ted Teske said.
“It’s a nuanced argument,” Teske said. “It’s not that we don’t want development in our neighborhood, it’s never been that. But we want quality development. We want sensible development. When this is all built out, is it going to look like North Division, or is it going to look like Kendall Yards?”
The Southgate Neighborhood sits in the southeast corner of Spokane, above Lincoln Heights. Its borders are 53rd Avenue to the south, Perry Street to the west, 37th Avenue to the north and the city limits near Havana Street to the east.
Regal bisects the neighborhood. After KHQ and Albertsons moved in the late 1990s, retail developers flocked to the street’s commercially zoned open spaces.
“(There) was a huge shift, from basically residential to big box,” Teske said. “We’re one of the last big (neighborhoods) that have any open space of any acreage.”
Southgate’s council put a pair of action plans in place, one to manage the neighborhood’s open spaces and one to address connectivity. “That helps us ground everything we do,” Teske said. “Everything in those plans was filtered through the city (comprehensive) plan.”
Litigation from neighborhood activists led to a tri-cornered, cooperative 2010 zoning agreement covering 45 acres surrounding Regal’s intersection with the Palouse Highway.
The agreement ensures that all new construction will be subject to the city’s design review process. “Center corridor zones aren’t, by default, subject to design review,” Teske said. “(But now) ours are.”
The agreement paved the way for recently completed Regal Plaza and the ongoing KXLY South Complex Project.
“KXLY is … going to have a grocery store as the anchor,” Teske said. “It’ll be nice to have a grocery store in the middle of the neighborhood (again).”
The Southeast Sports Complex, just north of the KXLY project, is also being revamped. It will have an amphitheater and outside electrical hook-ups, Teske said.
To the council, the agreement demonstrates the neighborhood council program’s value.
“I really feel like the city is doing a good job in trying to get feedback from neighborhoods,” said council vice-chair Summer Beers. “Groups are coming out and trying to get input from neighborhoods on just how they can plan better and incorporate things the neighborhoods can use.”
“The city is now much more aware that they need to let the neighborhood know what’s going on early and often. And that smooths things out in the long run,” Teske said.
Like all neighborhoods, Southgate has issues with traffic flow. Some, like the traffic flow on Regal, are obvious. Others are more subtle. “East-west connectivity is tough here,” Hoye said.
Most of Southgate’s arterial traffic runs north and south, so traveling east and west – cutting across the neighborhood’s natural grain – can be awkward and time-consuming.
“It’s hard to sometimes connect across that space,” Teske said. “People that are on the east side don’t necessarily think they are part of the same neighborhood.”
The long-term goal is an arterial from Perry to Havana streets. “We were successful in getting 44th punched through from Regal to Freya,” Hoye said.
The council also persuaded the city to build a bike trail over a newly installed water main between Freya Street and Havana.
The Clare View Seniors Apartments asked for the council’s help with a crosswalk across the Palouse Highway, so residents could safely cross to Regal Plaza. The council got it built with traffic calming funds.
“We carried it forward,” said Hoye. “The city stepped up, and now they have a nice little crosswalk.”
Reaching out has helped the council numerous times. Gonzaga’s law clinic helped it with the legalese involved in nonprofit compliance, and several Spokane Public Schools students helped the council with the technical aspects involved in revamping the neighborhood council website.
“There are opportunities for that in any neighborhood, I think,” Teske said. “If you talk to high schools, there’s a ton of school groups and classes that are looking for projects.”
Teske would like to get more input from Southgate’s many apartment residents. “Reaching out to those neighbors is a trick, because they move in and move out,” he said. “(But) I’d love to get them more involved; we’re here to work with them and for them, as much as for anybody else.”
“(That is) the challenge with every neighborhood council,” Hoye said. “Do we truly represent the interests of all 3,700 households?”
The council’s connectivity plan includes a system of pedestrian and bike trails that will span the neighborhood.
“We’re slowly filling those pieces in when we get opportunities,” Teske said. “Someday you’ll be able to go all the way from 57th Avenue to Lincoln Heights completely off the road on a nice, protected trail system.”
Teske said he believes the best way to get to know a neighborhood is on foot, walking through it. “The easier you make that, I think, the more you have a nice neighborhood,” he said.
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