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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

The auto row building saved by compromise

In today's paper, I wrote about the proposed demolition of two historic buildings on Spokane’s storied auto row, part of the conceptual master plan by the Larry H. Miller Group to build a large downtown campus for its auto dealerships.

The buildings to be razed are, without question, historic. The building on the southeast corner of Madison and West Third was built in 1937, and its neighbor at 1023 W. Third Ave, was constructed in 1913. Both meet the 50-year age eligibility requirement for the National Register of Historic Places. But as Megan Duvall, the city's historic preservation officer, said in today's story, the building's aren't really architecturally significant. In other words, they're kind of boring.

The decision to remove the buildings came after Duvall realized she could use a provision in the city’s demolition ordinance allowing for the razing of historic buildings as long as their destruction supported the rehabilitation of an adjacent historic structure.

It's that structure - the International Harvester Company Truck Showroom built in 1929 at 1030 W. Third Ave - that has historic significance as one of the few remaining and unique buildings left on the old automotive row. The row is technically called the West Downtown Transportation Corridor Historic District, and its period of significance stretched from 1890 to 1949. 

The photo at the top of the post shows the Harvester building the year it was completed. Besides how intact the building remains to this day, what's most interesting to my eyes is the huge rock outcropping to the building's east. How'd they get rid of that mountain? Was the rest of downtown marked with similar rocky protuberances, much like how the South Hill remains?

The images below show how the Miller Lexus showroom changed as a result of its dealings with the city and Duvall. Representatives from the company called the compromise to rehabilitate the Harvester building in exchange for demolishing the other two buildings "workable," but said the process leading to the compromise was “frustrating” because it forced the company to change its designs for a new Lexus showroom.

Instead of obscuring the Harvester building under the metal veneer of a new Lexus showroom, the company now will include the original building in its designs for the showroom. The metal siding has been replaced with limestone and brick in the designs for the new addition.


Centennial Trail moves towards completion

Good news from the City: A new section of the Centennial Trail has been completed along Summit Boulevard. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the 25th birthday of this local treasure than closing the gap at Mile 25 which extends from Bridge Avenue and Summit Boulevard to the intersection of Boone Avenue and Summit Boulevard. This will provide much better connectivity as it continues west from the new section installed by Kendall Yards last year.

The multi-use, 12 ft.-wide asphalt section features a new lookout offering views of the Spokane River below. Work on the .6 mile section began March 31 and is part of the federally funded Centennial Trail Gap Project. The project aims to complete gaps in the trail which inhibit the cohesiveness of travel for the Centennial Trail’s 2.4 million users each year.

(Note: This image was taken in November 2013 when the City Council voted to approve construction.)

Greening Neighborhoods grant program now available

The City Of Spokane is launching an exciting new grant program called Greening Neighborhoods Grant Program, which will offer a $10,000 incentive as part of the Forest Spokane initiative.

Neighborhoods that want to participate are being asked to identify locations suitable for planting trees, shrubs, grasses and other native perennials. Through this effort, neighborhoods will contribute directly to the Forest Spokane goal of planting 10,000 trees in two years all the while working together to beautify their neighborhoods.

According to the City: Each neighborhood may apply for up to three grants at a maximum funding amount of $5,000 each. The grant program is open to all 27 Spokane neighborhoods.

Organizations such as churches, schools, community centers, nonprofits and others may apply for a Greening Neighborhoods Grant by working directly with their neighborhood councils. Signatures from the neighborhood council must be obtained for all applications to be considered for funding. Implementation of the project must include a neighborhood volunteering event.

Here’s a state-by-state map of laws related to Uber rideshare services

Let's keep rolling on the topic of rideshare services, which just arrived in these parts. See last's week's story here.

The issue is going to be tossed into the laps of local officials who need to study the issue and decide if regulation is needed, if only because there are some concerns about the services providing safe rides to people relying solely on a smartphone to find a driver.

We checked in with Spokane city officials, who last week said they're likely to review the possible options. We did not check with Spokane County or with the City of Spokane Valley, or Coeur d'Alene, which the two main services provide rides to.

There are numerous similar efforts across the country trying to establish rules and guidelines for rideshares. Here's a map produced by NBC Chicago that tries to track the different regulations occurring nationwide.


City of Spokane plans park/streets meetings

Spokane city officials will hold six public meetings this month on their plan to refinance bonds to raise money for street maintenance and the proposed Riverfront Park Master Plan.

The proposal involves refinancing three older bond issues, paying them off and raising an extra $25 million for streets and $60 million for the Riverfront Park plan. It would pay off the 1999 park bonds, the 2004 street bonds and the 2007 pool bonds, leaving the 91 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in place, but extending it for 20 years. The two older bonds are due to expire this year, although the 2007 pool bonds have another 16 years.

City officials liken the plan to a homeowner refinancing to take advantage of lower interest rates.

For a look at the meeting schedule, click here to go inside the blog.


Spokane’s retail picture is brighter, but not crazy good, at least not yet

What are the biggest areas of the Spokane economy in terms of retail spending?
Let's take a look, compliments of the city's chief financial officer, Gavin Cooley. Today's news story, about how much area cities and counties rebounded in retail sales last year, noted that Washington has a big net called "taxable retail sales" and a smaller part of that group, which is called retail trade.

Retail trade covers products sold like cars, stereos, computers, furniture. Taxable retail covers services and those products purchased by construction crews or manufacturers, who also pay a sales tax on those items.

Inside the city, this is the breakdown:

Construction taxes accounted for 11 percent of the city's retail taxes last year.

Retail trade accounted for 45 percent.  Services accounted for 29 percent. The remaining 15 percent is distributed among a number of small categories.

As a general rule in Washington state, the breakdown between taxable non-trade and trade retail is 55 to 45 percent.

Looking just at 2014's first two months, Spokane city retail shows the largest gain this year is in services, up 10 percent from Jan-Feb. 2013.

Retail trade is down 2 percent. Which makes me wonder if Spokane hosted some major spectator events or touring shows in January or February 2013.






WSU Spokane offers Urban Goat certification classes

​So you want to keep goats in the City of Spokane? Under the recently passed Urban Livestock ordinance you will be able to starting May 9th ig you have taken an urban animal management class through WSU Spokane County Extension. The focus of the class will be to provide Spokane residents with the basics of keeping goats in an urban setting.

DATES: Thursday May 8 (20 seats) OR Thursday, May 22 (40 seats)
TIMES: 6:30 pm to 9 pm
LOCATION: WSU Spokane County Extension, 222 N. Havana, Spokane WA, 99202
COST: $20 per family at the same address.
By mail: Checks made payable to WSU Spokane County Extension and sent to the above address.

Garco begins work on city’s big solid waste fleet building in NE Spokane

The city of Spokane has begun construction of its $14 million combined Solid Waste Management & Fleet maintenance facility, known as the Nelson Service Center, at 915 N. Nelson.

The center will allow the city to convert solid waste trucks to compressed natural gas from diesel fuel, to save money and operate more efficiently.

Work on the two-story, 57,500-square-foot service center is expected to continue until summer or early fall of 2015.

It's on the south side of a 32-acre, city-owned parcel in the Chief Garry Park Neighborhood.

This is the city's first major use of a design-build project.  Garco Construction and Bernardo Wills Architects LLC, both of Spokane, are the building’s contractor and designer.

That option was chosen to speed construction and maintain better control over costs.

Compost Fair this Saturday at Finch Arboretum

​A big part of getting down to earth is getting dirty so check out the 36th semi-annual Compost Fair at the Finch Arboretum this Saturday, April 26. The Fair is being held as part of the Arbor Day Celebration and starts at 11 a.m. Attendees must arrive by 1:30 p.m. to complete all of the activities by the 2 p.m. end time.

Participants will learn how to create compost out of the “clean green” materials that result from their spring yard work and landscape trimming. Activity stations will provide hands-on experience and lots of information on the materials that can be composted, types of bins to use, and how to build and turn a pile. Finished compost is excellent material to recycle back into yards and gardens.

​The Fair is free and open to everyone. Spokane County attendees, with proof of county residence, can receive a free plastic compost bin after completing the activity stations. One bin per household is available. The bins are provided by Spokane Regional Solid Waste System and grant funds from the Washington State Department of Ecology. The Master Composters/Recyclers is a volunteer program sponsored by the Regional Solid Waste System.



Provide input on Spokane online transportation map

​The City of Spokane needs your help. They are asking citizens to provide input on a new online mapping tool that will help inform an update to the transportation and utility chapter of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Using the mapping tool, the public can note locations, intersections, and stretches of street that are problematic and those that are working well.

From the City Of Spokane: Directions on how to use the mapping tool are provided on the site, but essentially a user would navigate to a single point or draw a route and then provide comments about what’s working and what’s not.

“By using an interactive map that’s accessible on the internet, we hope to encourage participation from those who would like to provide feedback but don’t have the time to attend meetings,” says Scott Chesney, the City’s Planning Director. “We are working to reach out to the public in new ways that fit better into their busy lives.”

The transportation and utility chapter update process, which was launched last fall, is called Link Spokane. Link Spokane will address the future needs of all transportation users, including vehicles, freight, transit, bicyclists, and pedestrians, while identifying opportunities to leverage coordinated utility infrastructure improvements.

Yard and food waste collection resumes on Monday

Tired of the snow? Well, here's another sign that Spring isn't too far as the City Of Spokane is trying to urge Mother Nature along as it resumes curbside yard and food waste pickup on Monday, March 3rd.

The optional City service runs from March through November. The 96-gallon green yard waste cart can be filled with all manner of yard waste—grass, leaves, pine needles, pine cones, weeds, vines, thatch, plant trimmings, and branches. Customers can even cut up and throw in the old Christmas tree that’s been parked along the side of the house for weeks.

From the City Of Spokane: Customers also can dispose of food scraps and food-soiled paper in the carts. Acceptable scraps include meat, poultry, fish, beans, dairy products, fruit, vegetables, breads, grains, pasta, eggshells, nutshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, and leftovers. Acceptable food-soiled papers include greasy pizza boxes, coffee filters, paper towels, paper napkins, uncoated paper plates and cups, paper egg and berry cartons, and paper grocery bags with food scraps.

Spokane begins “Let’s Link”

​What should the future of Spokane’s transportation and utility infrastructure look like? That’s the question the City of Spokane is working to answer this year.

They've embarked on what’s called the “Link Spokane” planning process to create a 20-year vision for transportation and utility needs within the City.

Decisions must be made about long-term policies that address maintenance needs, environmental regulations, and strategies to accommodate growth and economic development. This process will result in a new and updated chapter for the City’s 20-year Comprehensive Plan.

One of the most interesting aspects of this work is the decision to integrate our plans for transportation and our water, wastewater, and stormwater utility services. Rather than just considering the surface uses for streets, the City is taking a three-dimensional view of our streets that includes connectivity for pipes and conduit.

Curbside pickup for Christmas trees

Not to sound like a Grinch but the City Of Spokane is offering a few options to get rid of your tree once the season is over.

First, the City’s Solid Waste Management Department offers free curbside pickup for its customers Thursday, Dec. 30, through Friday, Jan. 17. Once the decorations are removed, residents can place their fresh-cut trees at least three feet away from the refuse cart and recycling bin on their regularly scheduled garbage pickup days.



Spokane eliminates bicycle-pedestrian coordinator job

CYCLING — I've just learned that the city of Spokane is eliminating its Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator position.

As of Dec. 21, Grant Wencel, who's held the postion for more than four years, will be terminated and the job will go dark.

Here is a reaction from Bradley Bleck, who's been closely involved with the recent advances in bicycling routes and status in city transportation planning:

As someone who has served on the (Bicycling Advisory Board) for nearly seven years as a volunteer and member, who worked to help bring a bike/ped coordinator to the city, I can only see it as a significant step in the wrong direction, one that will make both recreational and utilitarian cycling in the city much less a priority. 

Curbside yard and food waste service hibernates at the end of this month

Here's another sign winter is coming: Curbside yard and food waste customers have until Sunday to finish their fall yard cleanup before the City of Spokane suspends the service for the winter.

The optional City service runs from March through November. The 96-gallon green yard waste cart can be filled with all manner of yard waste—grass, leaves, pine needles, pine cones, weeds, vines, thatch, plant trimmings, small amounts of sod, and branches.

Customers also can dispose of food scraps and food-soiled paper in the carts. Acceptable scraps include meat, poultry, fish, beans, dairy products, fruit, vegetables, breads, grains, pasta, eggshells, nutshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, and leftovers. Acceptable food-soiled papers include greasy pizza boxes, coffee filters, paper towels, paper napkins, uncoated paper plates and cups, paper egg and berry cartons, and paper grocery bags with food scraps.

Customers put their yard and food waste carts out the same day they haul their garbage and curbside recycling bin to the curb. The material is composted.


Schmautz completing conversion of former Johnston warehouse into offices

Developer Steven Schmautz is completing the renovation of the former Johnston Printing warehouse into commercial offices at 121 W. Pacific Ave. in Spokane.

The conversion will leave about 8,600 square feet of office space. Three tenants have signed leases: The Union, a yoga salon run by Tyler Lafferty and Nick Murto, principals at Seven 2 design firm; Copeland Architecture; and Helvetika, the new name for the former agency Anderson Mraz Design.

The three tenants are expected to move in sometime in December.

The building has one 2,100-square-foot office not yet leased, said Vic Overholser of SDS Realty Inc., the leasing agent.

Rendering courtesy of SDS Realty, of Spokane.

Learn about plans to improve the health of the Spokane River

​The City of Spokane will spend about $350 million in the next few years on projects to improve the health of the Spokane River. City Utilities Division Director Rick Romero recently provided an overview of this work, and his talk now is available on the City’s web site and is scheduled for replay on CityCable 5.

It's titled “The City’s Integrated Plan and the Role of Green Solutions.” The City is developing an Integrated Clean Water Plan that will prioritize projects based on their positive environmental impact to the river. The goal is to create a plan that is both environmentally and financially responsible.

In particular, the plan will include work to improve treatment at the City’s Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility and reduce the amount of stormwater and wastewater entering the River without treatment. Projects to reduce untreated discharges to the river from both separated storm sewers and combined sanitary and stormwater sewers are a big part of the effort. The work will include new green technologies for managing stormwater on site as well as more traditional “gray” storage tanks.

High Drive meeting: Are sidewalks just for poor people?

TRAILS — A packed house showed up last night at the new Jefferson Elementary School for the city-sponsored meeting to unveil new plans for the $6.8 million project that will repave and remodel High Drive while changing access to the South Hill bluff trails.  The meeting provided a lot of answers to concerned neighbors and perhaps raised a few more questions.

One comment from the audience caught my attention as an illustration of how wide the views range on developing a public asset such as High Drive.  The comment from the man, Dave, reminds us that private property owners often take very narrow views of public interest on city right-of-way.

To paraphrase Dave:

The city should focus funding earmarked for sidewalks to poor neighborhoods where people need the walkways to get to the bus rather than waste the money on a sidewalk in an affluent neighborhood where it isn't needed.

First, Dave apparently doesn't look out the tinted windows of his vehicle as he drives to and from his South Hill home to observe all of the walkers and runners who use High Drive each day.

Second, more walkers and runners would enjoy the premier views of High Drive if they didn't have to walk in the road especially around dangerous curves.

Third, it's crazy that the city has gone this long without providing a sidewalk or path the length of High Drive, one of the finest pedestrian routes the city has to offer.

Celebrating America Recycles Day, Spokane-style

The Spokane Regional Solid Waste System has kicked off their 17th annual recycling campaign, dubbed “I Want to be Recycled…”. Designed to promote the benefits of recycling and buying recycled products, several events have been planned to celebrate America Recycles Day, Friday, Nov. 15.


“America Recycles Day challenges all citizens to recycle more and to increase purchases of recycled-content products,” says Kris Major, Education Coordinator for the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System. “By increasing the amount we recycle, we can reduce our waste and conserve resources for future generations.”

High Drive street project could impact access to trails

TRAILS — As today's news story points out, City of Spokane engineers are ready to present a new plan for the $6.8 million High Drive street project after public criticism of initial proposals this summer and fall sent them back to the drawing board.

The project is of major concern to the hikers, cyclists, dog walkers and runners who flock to the 25-mile trail system along the South Hill bluff. Initial proposals would have reduced access to the trails and eliminated up to 80 percent of the available parking.

The city will unveil the revised design in an open-house meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, from 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., at the new Jefferson Elementary School, 123 E. 37th Ave

  • To get involved with protecting and improving the bluff trails and the natural landscape they traverse, check into the Friends of the Bluff


Applicants needed for Transportation Benefit District board

​Interested in helping maintain the City’s streets and sidewalks? The City of Spokane’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD) Board is seeking applicants to fill a vacancy on the citizen advisory board that helps determine priorities for TBD funding.

The Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) is seeking to fill a vacancy for a position from Council District 1 (Northeast Spokane) with a term ending Nov. 11, 2016.

The successful candidate may seek reappointment at the end of the term. Spokane’s Transportation Benefit District is an independent taxing district created in October 2010 to help the City better maintain its street system and pedestrian infrastructure. The Spokane City Council serves as the TBD governing board separately from their Council duties.

Money raised through a $20 vehicle registration fee pays for street maintenance and pedestrian improvements outlined in the City’s Six-Year Pavement Maintenance Program. The fee raises about $2.6 million annually.


Joint Transportation Open House tonight

I realize this is short notice - hey, I was on vacation! - but tonight there's an important joint open house hosted by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, Spokane Transit and the City of Spokane.

This multi-agency open house on the future of regional transportation goes from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at WSU Riverpoint Campus in the Phase 1 Classroom Building at 668 N.Riverpoint Boulevard.

You can to review and provide feedback on long term planning efforts and potential transportation projects currently under study.

Green Solutions Seminar is on for Thursday, Oct. 24

A group of community partners has set a day-long seminar to discuss green infrastructure, sustainable site design, and stormwater management. The seminar will be held on Thursday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Council Chambers in the lower level of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

The seminar organizing committee includes the Spokane Riverkeeper, AHBL, URS, Spokane River Forum, Spokane County Conservation District, Spokane County, the Spokane Parks & Recreation Department, community volunteers, and the City of Spokane.

Titled “Spokane: Green Solutions,” the seminar will include a talk by Kari Mackenbach, National Green Infrastructure Practice Leader at URS Corp.; a legal overview by Rick Eichstaedt, of the Center for Justice; a look at the City’s work to improve the health of the Spokane River, and several panel discussions with new ideas and practical tips. A virtual tour of green infrastructure already in place in the Spokane area also is planned.

City projects could affect access to South Hill bluffs

TRAILS — The City of Spokane's plans to "remodel" High Drive in 2014 while updating sewer lines could change bike lanes and reduce parking options for the popular South Hill bluff trails.

Traffic flow, pedestrian walkways, and bike lanes will also be affected, according to the Friends of the Bluff.

A neighborhood meeting on set for 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 8) at he new Jefferson Elementary School Multi-Purpose Room, 123 E. 37th Ave.
This might be the public's best chance to see the initial plans and provide constructive input, the Friends group says.

City Of Spokane and The Lands Council partner on stormwater pilot project in Shadle Park

The City of Spokane
and The Lands Council are partnering on a pilot project to add a few green stormwater management features, dubbed commonly as “Storm Gardens,” in the Shadle Park neighborhood. The City is contracting with The Lands Council to reach out to neighborhood residents and businesses to talk about stormwater and the benefits of using such green strategies, generally called low impact development within Washington State.

The Lands Council also will work to identify property owners interested in having a garden installed that will capture stormwater and filter it on site. The gardens would include native plants and special soils, including a layer of biochar, a charcoal-like material that is a by-product of biomass facilities.

Geek out: Exactly how big is the city’s new CSO reduction tank?

Construction on a one million gallon tank to reduce overflows from a combined sanitary and stormwater sewer on the west side of Ray Street at 21st Avenue is set to begin in late September. The tank will capture and retain excess flows from combined sewers during a large storm from an area that includes Lincoln Heights and part of the East Central neighborhood.

In addition to reducing overflows to the river, this project also will help with localized basement flooding in homes near the tank. Construction is expected to continue through November 2014. To make room for the tank and for enhanced neighborhood safety, about 100 pine trees will be removed from the site, beginning Monday, September 23.

As part of the project, landscaping will be added that will return the location to a nature area. The project at 21st & Ray is part of a major initiative to improve the health of the Spokane River by reducing the amount of stormwater and wastewater entering the Spokane River.

The 21st & Ray tank will be the largest one the City has constructed to date to address overflows from combined sewers. City engineers say the tank will be as long as a football field, end zone to end zone. Check this comparison below:

tank vs bank bldg

Yes, that's the Bank Of America building downtown. 

Using Building and Energy Codes to Solve Code Challenges in Historic Buildings

Rehabilitating and reusing historic buildings can help municipalities, building owners and developers meet important objectives ranging from preserving local character, to encouraging green building, revitalization, and construction. But what about the challenges in bringing older buildings "Up to Code" - how can these projects work and still meet modern requirements for safety and efficiency?

Architect Marilyn Kaplan (Preservation Architecture, Albany, NY), an expert in historic buildings, building codes and energy codes, will present a one day workshop on this subject. This workshop will include lunch and an interactive discussion with local experts. Program qualifies for Continuing Education Units for AIA HSW 6 CEUs, APA/AICP and ICC. Hosted by the City of Spokane with support from AIA Spokane, Inland Empire Section of the APA, Northwest Chapter of the ICC, and the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.

Here are the details:

September 17th, 2013 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
$25 includes: workshop, lunch, and CEU certificate
The Spokane Club, 1002 West Riverside Avenue
Spokane, WA 99201

Register @ http://historicspokane.brownpapertickets.com/ or contact Caitlin Shain, cshain@spokanecity.org.

Spokane City Council votes on ordinance tonight to better manage stormwater

What's a better way to spend a Monday night than at a Spokane City Council meeting? Especially, when the future of a clean Spokane River is on the table.

Tonight, council will consider a proposed new ordinance that would encourage property owners and developers to use green strategies—called low impact development—to manage stormwater as part of their development or redevelopment projects.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. meeting and the public will have an opportunity to provide comments at that time. The Council meets in the lower level of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

From the City Of Spokane: Low impact development is an emerging practice that mimics nature’s management of stormwater. It emphasizes site conservation and uses natural landscaping features to filter and retain stormwater close to where it falls. The rain gardens on South Lincoln Street and the stormwater planters and pervious pavement on West Broadway Avenue are examples of low impact development.

“We are committed to improving the health of the Spokane River,” says Rick Romero, the City’s Division Director of Utilities. “Low impact development captures stormwater—which carries pollutants—and keeps it from flowing into the Spokane River.”

City Of Spokane wins award for solid waste management

Props to the City of Spokane has they received an excellence award for its integrated solid waste management system by the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA). The award will be presented at SWANA’s annual conference on Tuesday, Sept. 17, in Long Beach, California.

The bronze-level award recognizes the City’s overall solid waste management approach, including collection of solid waste, recyclable, and organic materials within the City. In addition to the City’s collection services, the award also recognizes the City’s management and operation of Spokane’s Waste-to-Energy Plant, transfer stations, recycling centers, household hazardous waste facilities and both active and closed landfills, which serve the entire County. Separately, Wheelabrator Technologies received a gold excellence award from SWANA for operation of the Spokane Waste-to-Energy Plant.

Urban Farming open house for Spokane

In response to increasing local interest in Urban Farming, the City Council and Planning and Development Services Department are leading an effort to research, evaluate and develop a system to better support and provide regulations for Urban Farming.

Image courtesy of Project Hope Spokane, one of our best examples of urban farming. 

The workshop will be for the purpose of discussing ideas and generating comments on possible changes to City code that could create a more consistent, predictable and stream-lined system for Urban Farmers.