Mention Lincoln Heights to a Spokane resident and the first thought will be about the shopping center, but the surrounding neighborhood is as diverse as any in the city.
“There is so much about Lincoln Heights that is very beautiful,” Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council Chair Carol Tomsic said “A lot of times we walk around what we see, but we really need to walk across what we see.”
Tomsic and council veterans Marilyn Lloyd and Sally Phillips preside over a dynamic blend of parks, schools, wetlands and new development designed to house a wide spectrum of ages and income levels.
“There’s a lot going on,” said Tomsic. “We have to stay active.”
Havana Street and 37th Avenue, respectively, serve as the neighborhood’s eastern and southern borders, with a tip-out near 37th to include Chase Middle School. The western borders are Perry Street above 29th Avenue and Southeast Boulevard below. The southern border bounces between Ninth and 14th avenues, loosely tracing the Ben Burr Trail.
The council’s three primary projects involve a future plan, a present development and a past scandal that resulted in one of the city’s best-managed wetlands.
The city’s Lincoln Heights Business Plan, set for implementation in 2020, was endorsed by the council in November 2016. “They were very careful to get the neighborhood involved,” Lloyd said. “We went to every meeting.”
The city wants to use 27th Avenue to ease traffic on 29th, but it’s complicated. “They want to make that an arterial, so they can move traffic from Southeast Boulevard to Ray,” Tomsic said.
“But 27th is on the bike map as a bike corridor,” Phillips said. “Those two are competing things, so it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen.”
The plan encourages multifamily development around the shopping center, bike- and pedestrian-friendly walkways and connections to Lincoln and Thornton Murphy parks. The aim is to get residents up and out of their homes, building a buzz around the neighborhood.
“It already does,” Tomsic said. “But we are going to buzz it a little bit more.”
In a design review board meeting on June 13, the city approved Greenstone Homes’ plan for its Garden District development without connecting Crestline Street to Southeast Boulevard. Greenstone had submitted two plans, one with the Crestline connection and one without it.
The decision was going to be controversial either way. “The neighbors enjoying that dead-end on Crestline are very opposed,” Phillips said. “Some of the other neighbors, not so much.”
The decision could save two rows of street trees, planted decades ago in anticipation of a street plan that was later scrapped. “They have been there for a long time,” Tomsic said. “If Crestline goes through, we’ll lose them.”
The Crestline decision closes an avenue to alleviate traffic stress through the busy Lincoln Heights corridor. “There will be a traffic study on 29th,” Tomsic said. “Traffic has to go someplace.”
Said Phillips: “The philosophy of the city has been that they want connectivity where they can get it. There’s a big break in connectivity in there between 29th and 35th.”
Greenstone was proactive from the start in addressing the many neighborhood concerns with the new development. “They’ve been very open-minded toward how the neighborhood is reacting,” Lloyd said.
The plan leaves about 30 percent of the existing green space intact. “Instead of breaking it up in to a bunch of big properties, they are going to have smaller lots and quite a bit of open space,” Phillips said.
Other issues include a new bus line, a trail connection and plans for a new home for the South Hill Library.
The North Monroe Street to South Regal Street High Performance Transit Line hit a snag when negotiations broke down with a property owner on 29th. “They still have lots of ideas,” Tomsic said. STA hopes to begin service on the route, which will connect downtown, Five Mile and Moran Prairie, in 2019.
To connect the business district and Lincoln Park to the Ben Burr Trail, the council planned directional signs and a pair of crosswalks to slow traffic along Fiske Street. The crosswalks will be on 11th and 17th avenues, and the signs will begin at the Southeast Boulevard entrance to Lincoln Park.
“We mapped out what we would like to see done,” Lloyd said. “The work will be done in 2019.”
Rumors are flying about a potential move for the South Hill Library, but no decisions have been made. “We were told (a move) was off the table, because our neighbors near the library don’t want it moved,” Tomsic said. “We were later told … it’s not off the table. The last I heard is they were looking at the senior center.”
A past transgression will benefit the neighborhood’s most prominent wetland. Reparations for a damaged wetland near 44th Avenue and Regal Street are being paid in Froggy Pond. “Somebody had to make it good,” Phillips said.
The wetland near 29th and Havana Street will receive 10 years of paid, focused supervision. “They are killing off some of the noxious weeds,” Phillips said. “And every year they install native plants.”
Originally planned as a pocket park, Froggy Pond was purchased by the city for storm water management in 2009.
“The city found that there was an underground channel,” Phillips said. “They figured out that it was a place where they could set up some storm water management and have water absorbed here instead of winding up in some people’s basements.”