Open the skywalk now or suffer the consequences later.
It’s not exactly an edict, but Spokane city officials are urging two downtown developers to settle their dispute and open the blocked skywalk over Post Street between Riverside and Main.
“I strongly encourage both of you to resolve your differences and promptly open up the Post Street skywalk,” wrote City Manager Roger Crum earlier this week in a letter to Don Barbieri and Robert Paterson.
At issue is the skywalk linking Goodale & Barbieri’s newly opened Crescent Court to the Burlington Coat Factory. Lying between Crescent Court and the skywalk is a third building, the Crescent Addition, which is owned by Paterson.
A wall between the addition and the court keeps people from using the Post Street skywalk and getting to the Burlington building.
City officials say they’ve waited long enough for the two to get the wall down. If something doesn’t happen soon, they’ll be forced to intervene.
“It’s unacceptable for that skywalk to remain closed very much longer,” Crum said in an interview Tuesday.
Several phone calls to Goodale & Barbieri went unanswered Tuesday. Attempts to reach Paterson also were unsuccessful.
Steve Eugster, an attorney who moonlights as Spokane’s public interest crusader, said while he applauds the city’s stance, he thinks they should be firmer.
“They’re being extremely cautious,” said Eugster, who earlier this month demanded the city get the skywalk open or see him in court.
“I don’t think they want to make waves.”
Crum and City Attorney James Sloane said they’d like to be tougher, but can’t until the Spokane Transit Authority opens its new downtown center.
When the new transit building opens this spring, one skywalk will connect it to the Seafirst Financial Center and another to the Sterling Savings Building, which opens into Crescent Court.
That new skywalk will make it possible for the city to invoke an ordinance that postdates the Crescent Court skywalk. The law dating back to 1977 makes it illegal for a private property owner to block a skywalk, which crosses the “public air space.”
The Post Street skywalk was built in 1972 - five years prior to the law, Sloane said. He argues the city can’t invoke the ordinance until the STA leg is added.
“At that point, all parts of the ordinance apply to the entire block,” Sloane said.
The law forces disputing parties into arbitration. If that fails, the city would take legal action.
“There’s always the possibility of litigation,” Sloane said. “I hope the matter can be resolved amicably before that.”
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